This week, Ken Paxton took time out from fighting his multiple felony indictments to send a set of directives to Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick outlining the attorney general's priorities for the period leading up to the Texas Legislature's next session in 2017. If you're a woman, someone who thinks the separation of church and state is an essential part of American democracy or someone who happens to like your city's non-discrimination ordinance, you should be terrified. Otherwise, Paxton clearly has your best interests at heart.
After an introduction, Paxton goes into a lengthy diatribe about his desire to further limit the abortion rights of Texas women. Paxton is leading an investigation of Texas' abortion providers based on a series of substantially manipulated videos filmed at Planned Parenthoods across the country. The group filming the videos says they show Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue, which is against federal law. They don't, but Paxton doesn't care. In each of the finished, similar investigations conducted by other states, Planned Parenthood has been cleared of doing anything illegal.
Paxton outlines the investigation the state has performed so far. The attorney general says that investigators have "follow[ed] up with persons of varying levels of knowledge," which is helpful for those readers of government memos who don't know what the word "investigation" means. He then goes on to outline additional abortion restrictions he wants in Texas. If they were adopted, they would be among the strictest in the country.
The state should, according to its attorney general, assess whether or not to adopt a tighter time restriction on abortions than Texas' current 20-week limit, prohibit any government entity — like, say, a research hospital — from acquiring fetal tissue for any purpose and require that any person 16 years old or younger seeking an abortion to be reported to police as a potential victim of sexual assault. He'd also have the state make selling fetal tissue illegal, despite the fact that doing so is already illegal. Paxton, as he said in July, wants to get rid of legal abortion in the state. These ideas are the first steps.
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Beyond abortion, Paxton makes it clear that he wants Patrick to attack the rights of Texas' LGBT population in the name of, as you might have guessed, religious liberty. He proposes requiring that anti-discrimination ordinances across the state be uniform. That would mean cities like Dallas, cities that have gone the extra mile to protect their LGBT residents, would be forced to follow the same rules as the Texas backwaters that have fought progress tooth and nail. The attorney general also subtly sticks up for practitioners of reparitive therapy, the nearly universally discredited practice of attempting to turn non-straight people straight, by asking that "religious beliefs when providing counseling be protected."
As you might expect, Progress Texas says Paxton is trying to get people to look past his indictments.
"Paxton’s indictments won’t go away just because he's throwing his Tea Party supporters red meat — and Texans’ access to abortion under the bus," Executive Director Ed Espinoza said in a statement Thursday afternoon.