If Joe Pojman had his way, Christina Bourne would soon no longer be a doctor but a convicted felon. He receives in his office in Austin, Texas, 900 kilometers from the clinic in Wichita. Pojman is 63 years old, wearing a suit and tie, a man with gray hair and a full beard who chooses his words carefully and speaks eloquently. His demeanor is so gentle that at first you hardly notice how radical his statements are. He used to work as an engineer for NASA. Until he felt called by God to devote his life to something else. Pojman founded the Texas Alliance for Life organization 34 years ago.
Joe Pojman has the same goal as Mark Gietzen, the man praying outside the Kansas clinic, but Pojman’s strategy is more subtle — and far more efficient. On the table in front of him is a law that he drafted. The governor of Texas has already signed it. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, that law will go into effect 30 days later in Texas. It bears the number 1280 and the name “Human Life Protection Act”. The text reads: “A person who violates the ABORTION BAN commits a crime.” A doctor like Christina Bourne would then be charged with manslaughter in Texas after an abortion and sentenced to life imprisonment. She would have to pay a fine “of not less than $100,000 for each violation.”
Aren’t there any exceptions? “Yes,” says Joe Pojman. “When the mother’s survival is threatened by the pregnancy.” What about rape or incest? Or if the child is not viable? “No.”
In Texas, people already live in a world where Roe vs. Wade is all but abolished. Last September, when abortion was legalized in neighboring Mexico, the so-called heartbeat law went into effect in Texas. It bans abortions from the time a fetus’s heartbeat can be detected – around the sixth week of pregnancy. Many women don’t even realize they’re pregnant that early.
Joe Pojman doesn’t take the heartbeat law far enough. “Life begins at conception,” he says. Unlike the chief physician Christina Bourne, he never talks about the “fetus”, he says “the unborn child”. The choice of term shows that there are complex questions behind the abortion debate: When does life begin? At what point does a fetus become a person?
Pojman engages in a brief thought experiment: Suppose he’s in a burning hospital and can save five embryos in Petri dishes on the way out – or a newborn baby. What would he choose?
Joe Pojman says he can’t answer that question. “For me, human life is always equally valuable – whether it’s an unborn child, a newborn, a teenager or an adult.” He’s heard about women leaving Texas to have abortions elsewhere. “It breaks my heart,” he says. “My goal is that no woman sets out.”
But women in Texas are not yet prohibited by law from seeking help outside of the state. For example in Mexico.