Shaheen Was A Co-Sponsor Of SB 8, “One Of The Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Bills” As It Banned Abortion As Early As Six Weeks Into The Pregnancy When A Heartbeat Was Detected, Well Before Many People Would Know They Were Pregnant. Leach was a co-sponsor of SB 8, which according to the Texas Tribune, “One of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bills — which bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy — took effect at midnight after the U.S. Supreme Court did not take action on an emergency appeal by Texas abortion providers Tuesday. The law prohibits abortions whenever an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers defined as a fetal ‘heartbeat,’ though medical and legal experts say this term is misleading because embryos don’t possess a heart at that developmental stage. Providers and abortion rights advocacy groups say this would affect at least 85% of the abortions taking place in the state. Many people don’t know they are pregnant within the first six weeks. But the state wouldn’t enforce the law. SB 8 instead provides enforcement only by private citizens who would sue abortion providers and anyone involved in aiding or abetting an abortion after a ‘heartbeat’ is detected.” [SB 8, Sponsors, accessed 6/28/22; Texas Tribune, 8/31/21]
Important points: Representative Matt Shaheen served on the board of Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, an organization that has operated a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) since 1991 and that opened a second center in July 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the first month of the pandemic in Texas, abortion clinics were forced to close while CPCs were permitted to stay open despite not providing any medical or essential care. Shaheen supported this closure, a part of his history of using his public office to promote CPCs and restrict access to abortion.
CPCs, including Shaheen’s, are often operated by religious organizations and are designed to trick people out of having an abortion through scare tactics and medically inaccurate lies. Like Prestonwood’s centers, many CPC’s are intentionally located adjacent to abortion clinics in order to confuse and lure vulnerable people seeking abortions. Due to this purposeful confusion and lying, experts warned that CPC’s presented a particular threat to public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Matt Shaheen Served On Prestonwood Pregnancy Center’s Board. According to Representative Matt Shaheen’s Texas House of Representative’s profile, “Representative Shaheen has been married for 25 years to his wife Robyn, and together, they have three children. Matt and his family attend Prestonwood Baptist Church where Matt serves as a Deacon, an usher and on the church's pregnancy center board.” [Texas House of Representatives, accessed 7/29/20]
Prestonwood Pregnancy Center Is A Ministry Of Shaheen’s Church, Prestonwood Baptist. According to Pestonwood Baptist Church, “Prestonwood Pregnancy Center began as a ministry of Prestonwood Baptist Church in 1991. The Pregnancy Center is a separate nonprofit, providing free and confidential guidance, pregnancy tests, early pregnancy sonograms, educational classes and post-abortion support groups.” [Prestonwood Baptist Church, accessed 7/30/20]
Shaheen Indicated That He Did Not Hold Any Board Positions On His Personal Financial Statement. According to Matt Shaheen’s 2020 Personal Financial Statement,
[Matt Shaheen, 2020 Personal Financial Statement, filed 2/11/20]
July 2020: Prestonwood Pregnancy Center Opened Their Second Crisis Pregnancy Center Location Across The Street From A Planned Parenthood Location. According to Baptist Press, “To better accomplish that goal, Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, launched by Prestonwood Baptist Church in 1991, has opened its second location directly across from the largest Planned Parenthood abortion center in Dallas.” [Baptist Press, 7/21/20]
Prestonwood Pregnancy Center Location Intentionally Adjacent To Abortion Clinics In Order To Lure People Seeking Abortions. According to Baptist Press, “The goal of Prestonwood Pregnancy Center is to be available to as many people as possible, letting them know the options they have when encountering an unplanned pregnancy, according to director Leanne Jamieson. To better accomplish that goal, Prestonwood Pregnancy Center, launched by Prestonwood Baptist Church in 1991, has opened its second location directly across from the largest Planned Parenthood abortion center in Dallas. The expansion plan had originally been to revitalize another crisis pregnancy center located near the Planned Parenthood location. The struggling center was on the verge of closure. But when Jamieson discovered an empty building across the street from Planned Parenthood, she began praying that God would open doors and provide a way for the two crisis pregnancy centers to merge and open a new location. […] Jamieson said they chose the location because when women are headed to the Planned Parenthood center, it is usually because they believe they have no other option or are looking for answers to a seemingly impossible situation. […] ‘We thought, 'Let's position ourselves so those who are heading toward the abortion facility might see us and might give them pause and might end up coming to us instead of them.’’ […] ‘Planned Parenthood is staffed by people that need the love and grace of our Lord and Savior as much as clients walking through our door do. But we are moving in because that is a place where the enemy has positioned himself and we want to say we can serve them (clients), and that they have more options beyond just abortion.’” [Baptist Press, 7/21/20]
March 2020: Governor Abbott Issued An Executive Order That Resulted In The Closure Of All Abortion Clinics In Texas During The COVID-19 Pandemic. According to a press release from the Attorney General of Texas, “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today warned all licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities, including abortion providers, that, pursuant to Executive Order GA 09 issued by Gov. Greg Abbott, they must postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary. […] This prohibition applies throughout the State and to all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary, including routine dermatological, ophthalmological, and dental procedures, as well as most scheduled healthcare procedures that are not immediately medically necessary such as orthopedic surgeries or any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” [Attorney General of Texas, 3/23/20]
Shaheen Supported Governor Abbott’s Closure Of Abortion Clinics. According to a letter to the Attorney General of Texas from the Texas Freedom Caucus, “Part of what makes the Wuhan Coronavirus so concerning is its potential to overrun our healthcare system. In order to ensure that does not happen, Governor Abbott rightfully issued Executive Order No. GA-09, relating to hospital capacity during the COVID-19 disaster, and in it ordering that ‘all licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities postpones all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient… Your office issued an informal opinion on March 23, correctly pointing out what most Texans already know: killing a baby in the womb is never medically necessary. Under your interpretation, all abortion facilities in Texas must close under Governor Abbott’s directive. The Freedom Caucus proudly supports your opinion – not simply because we are pro-life, but because we know that the decision is necessary to keep every possible hospital bed open in preparation for what may come. […] As much as we would like to see this order stand, we recognize that it must be repealed once this disaster declaration ends. We will continue then our fight to protect innocent life in the womb. Until then, we thank you for not capitulating to the left during this time of great national turmoil, and we ask that those that violate this order be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. With Sincere Gratitude, […] Rep. Matt Shaheen House District 66” [Texas Freedom Caucus, 3/25/20]
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Were Deemed Essential In Texas And Allowed To Remain Open During The COVID-19 Pandemic Despite Not Providing Medical Or Essential Care. According to Ms Magazine, “Earlier this month, lawmakers in states like Texas, Ohio and Alabama ordered all non-essential medical procedures to be postponed until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides—including all abortion procedures. Over the weeks that followed, the legality of abortion in these states has been in constant limbo—in Texas, for example, changing at least five times in two weeks. Women in need of abortions in these states have been caught in the crosshairs, left hanging with closed signs and locked doors. Today, they face a world where abortion access is limited. Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), on the other hand, have been allowed to remain open in some of the very states that have banned abortion and forced clinic closures during the coronavirus pandemic. Ironically, these centers, by definition, should be deemed non-essential as because they do not provide life-sustaining medical support. In fact, they only function to encourage women to continue their pregnancies.” [Ms Magazine, 4/16/20]
Experts Said Crisis Pregnancy Centers Were Mostly Unlicensed, Provided Non-Essential Care And Lured People Away From Medical Facilities Therefore They Represented A Threat To Health During The COVID-19 Pandemic. According to Rewire News, “Networks of anti-choice clinics, or largely unregulated crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), are staying open during the COVID-19 outbreak even though they don’t provide health care and use dishonest messaging that can confuse people seeking abortion services. […] But experts disagree, noting that anti-choice clinic services are nonessential and pose a unique risk to pregnant people and public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Katrina Kimport, an associate professor at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), told Rewire.News that the services CPCs offer wouldn’t be considered essential. In a study published in February in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Kimport found that patients who visited these clinics largely came to confirm they were pregnant. […] ‘None of the services they received were essential for the health and safety of them or their pregnancies,’ Kimport said, adding that respondents didn’t know whether the people with whom they interacted were medical professionals. ‘In fact, most understood the people that they were working with to be volunteers.’ So even when respondents received care that was more specialized, it wasn’t delivered by a professional. […] ‘Abortion procedures or emergency contraception are all services that if there is a delay in access, there’s a risk that people may not be able to access that care at all,’ Sutocky said. ‘Crisis pregnancy centers do offer a range of services like ultrasounds, pregnancy testing, and pregnancy options counseling. Those things could be time-sensitive, but as services not being provided by medical providers, that information could potentially be inaccurate.’ Since most anti-choice centers are not licensed, they have no oversight, which could be dangerous as COVID-19 spreads, she said.” [Rewire News, 4/10/20]
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Do Not Offer Health Services And Staff Is Not Required To Hold Any Medical Licenses. According to NARAL, “So-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ (CPCs), which make up 70% of TPCN service providers, are unlicensed, non-medical ‘counseling’ centers with no confidentially requirements or oversight. They do not offer any health services and their staff are required merely to receive unspecified ‘pregnancy counselling/mentoring skills orientation and training’ […] While emotional support is certainly an important part of pregnancy, it is dangerous and irresponsible to fund controversial, non-medical counseling at the expense of legitimate and comprehensive health and social services – particularly when: 50% of all Texas women giving birth are forced to rely on Medicaid to cover their child’s birth, 35% of Texas babies are born to women who receive inadequate prenatal care, 20% of Texas women aged 18+ have not had a Pap test in the past three years, Texas has the nation’s third-highest teen birth rate.” [NARAL, accessed 7/29/20]
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Use Scare Tactics And False Information In Order To Trick People Out Of Having An Abortion. According to the Austin Chronicle, “‘They won’t tell you this wherever they do these things, but it’s a very big risk. You may never be able to conceive children. There’s about a 90% chance you may never be able to have children down that road.’ That was one of the misleading and deceptive messages imparted to Laura Gorsky and Breanne Wenke by crisis pregnancy center counselors during a March visit to the TruCare pregnancy resource center in South Austin. While there, Gorsky and Wenke were also sold a slew of other medically unproven information about abortion, including negative mental side effects and emotional distress, false claims debunked by the American Psychological Association. The procedure, they were warned, was ‘very painful,’ and they would ‘hear the vacuum sucking the fetus out.’ The CPC counselor went on to conflate the abortion pill with Plan B, saying the pill acts to stop a woman from being impregnated, a dangerous medical lie. Even though the women told the counselor that the father was out of the picture and disinterested, she pressed them to inform him of the pregnancy and reminded them ‘God had a plan.’ She advised them to take the weekend and strongly consider their options. […] For the pro-choice community in Texas, the SCOTUS ruling reinforced the fact that the actual goal of CPCs – largely Christian-based nonmedical clinics – is to deter women from seeking abortion, by any means necessary, including scare tactics and false medical information. […] Counselors not only push adoption and parenthood on women who come through the doors, but also feed them lies about abortion, including the false threat of breast cancer – rejected by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and eight other medical organizations – according to state and national investigations by NARAL Pro-Choice.” [Austin Chronicle, 7/20/18]
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Often Locate Themselves Close To Abortion Clinics In Order To Confuse And Lure Vulnerable People Away From Them. According to the Austin Chronicle, “But what they found – a disturbing and manipulative interaction – aligns with other experiences women have undergone at some of the state's nearly 200 crisis pregnancy centers. Often using vague language and even positioning themselves near abortion clinics to confuse vulnerable women, CPCs lure clients with the promise of comfort, care, and an ear to listen.” [Austin Chronicle, 7/20/18]
May 2019: Senate Bill 22 Prevented Public Resources From Going To Any Abortion Provider Or Affiliated Providers. According to the enrolled version of Senate Bill 22, the bill would have mandated that “a governmental entity may not enter into a taxpayer resource transaction with an abortion provider or an affiliate of an abortion provider.” [Senate Bill 22, Enrolled Version, accessed 7/29/20]
Senate Bill 22 Prevented Abortion Providers From Teaming Up With Local Agencies To Address Public Health Crises, Including Pandemics, As Had Previously Happened. According to the Texas Tribune, “But the new law cuts abortion providers and affiliates off from any governmental benefit. In South Texas, the law could mean the end of partnering with Planned Parenthood for public health services. Mara Posada, director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood South Texas, pointed to an example from several years ago, when Cameron County partnered with Planned Parenthood to educate residents in hard-to-reach neighborhoods about the Zika virus. During this year’s legislative session, Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, proposed an amendment to SB 22 that would have allowed municipalities to contract with Planned Parenthood to address public health crises like Zika, HIV and sexually transmitted disease outbreaks, but it was ultimately shot down. ‘What we’re the most concerned about is what impact this will have on any future work or future partnerships that we may want to have or that the local governments may need to do,’ Posada said. ‘The public health concerns, we don’t know what those are yet. We didn’t know that the Zika virus was going to be such an issue, such a crisis when it was.’” [Texas Tribune, 6/27/19]
2017: Shaheen Worked With Texas Right To Life To Increase Funding For The Alternatives To Abortion Program, Resulting In Funding Being Doubled. According to Texas Right to Life, “Texas Right to Life has spearheaded efforts for several sessions to allocate more resources for the underfunded program, which began in 2006. In 2015, Texas Right to Life worked with Representative Dade Phelan (R- Beaumont) and other Pro-Life stalwarts in the House to increase funding to $18 million, a 78 percent increase. In the 2017 session of the Texas Legislature, Texas Right to Life worked closely with Representatives Matt Krause, Mike Lang, Mike Schofield, and Matt Shaheen to craft amendments that could be offered on the House floor to increase funding again. Using this strategy, Pro-Life champions in the House succeeded in passing a much-needed increase in the A2A budget, raising the total to $38.3 million.” [Texas Right to Life, 11/21/17]
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Comprised 70 Percent Of Service Providers Funded Under The Alternatives To Abortion Program. According to NARAL, “Under the Alternatives to Abortion program, a nonprofit called the Texas Pregnancy Care Network (TPCN) has contracted with the state since 2005 to distribute this funding to preexisting service providers. The TPCN did not exist prior to 2005, and was apparently created solely to take advantage of the new funding option, as its founding directors had no previous experience in women’s health or nonprofit administration. […] The TPCN, which serves solely as an intermediary between the state and existing social service providers, neither offers nor provides support for women’s health care services. So-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ (CPCs), which make up 70% of TPCN service providers, are unlicensed, non-medical ‘counseling’ centers with no confidentially requirements or oversight.” [NARAL, accessed 7/29/20]