Controversial clinic used to pass SB22 avoids closure

The doors are locked at the Planned Parenthood clinic on 7th Street in east Austin. Water damage, not state lawmakers, has temporarily closed the clinic.

Its eventual reopening is no surprise for Joe Pojman with Texas Alliance for Life. 

"We would like for Planned Parenthood to leave that facility, and let some other provider that does a better job for local women to take over, we knew that wasn't going to be the case,” said Pojman.

The property, owned by the City of Austin, is leased to Planned Parenthood for one dollar. Health care services like cancer screening, not abortions, are provided at the clinic. During the legislative session the deal prompted the filing of Senate Bill 22 and sparked a heated debate in the House chamber in May.

"How are you protecting my taxpayers,” questioned state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) as he debated state Rep. Candy Noble (R-Murphy).

The legislation, sponsored in the House by Noble, prohibits local governments from entering into contracts with abortion providers.

"Taxpayers who oppose abortion should not have to see their tax dollars subsidizing the abortion industry,” said Noble during the debate.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed the bill into law, but in November well before the Session even started, the city of Austin had already protected its lease deal by extending it to 2039. 

In a statement, Marc Rylander, spokesperson for the Attorney General, said "Our office will perform our duty to enforce Senator Donna Campbell's bill. SB 22 states that it applies to transactions entered after the bill becomes effective."  

The law takes effect September 1. State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) also sent a statement acknowledging the law is not yet in play, saying:

Officials with Planned Parenthood were not available Monday for an on camera interview. In a statement regarding the lease Ken Lambrecht, who heads up Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said:

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said SB22 did briefly impact the repair schedule for the 7th Street Clinic. Efforts are being made to do a complete renovation and the legislation put the process in limbo. There is no date yet for the reopening.

The focus for the Texas Alliance for Life is now on pending contracts that abortion providers have with other cities. The concern for supporters of SB22 is a repeat of what happened in Austin at the clinic.

"Our public information request from across the state of Texas in major counties we found dozens of contracts with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers that would be affected by SB22,” said Pojman.

The next battleground could be the Austin ISD school board meeting room. A sex education circulation written by Planned Parenthood is up for consideration.