By: MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE

“Babies whose heartbeats are detectable are protected from abortion throughout the state of Texas. We are ighted by that,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Alliance for Life

Texas had already enacted some of the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions in recent years. Those measures were later overturned by the courts but still to a toll on abortion providers who fought them. Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott managed to close Texas abortion clinics by declaring abortion among elective procedures suspended due to the pandemic. And in 2013, than half of the state’s 40-plus clinics closed before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a state abortion law.

HOUSTON — Joy and sorrow. That was predictably the reaction of Texans on Wednesday — depending on where they stood on abortion — after the U.S. Supreme Court’s silence allowed the toughest antiabortion law in the country to take effect.
“Babies whose heartbeats are detectable are protected from abortion throughout the state of Texas. We are ighted by that,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Alliance for Life, which successfully lobbied for the law and 25% increased state funding for alternatives to abortion.

Staff at abortion clinics in Texas, where California doctors sometimes fly in to help staff, were scrambling Wednesday to explain the new law to patients.

“We’re getting patients who are scared, confused, angry. They’re asking questions about, ‘Is abortion still legal?’ ‘Can I still get an abortion, am I too far along?’” said Vanessa Rodriguez, contact center senior manager for Planned Parenthood of Texas. “I have to tell them Texas politicians are taking away their right to make decisions they feel are right.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to act on an emergency appeal that would put the law on hold. A dozen other states have enacted similar bans, but they’ve been blocked before taking effect, making Texas’ law the most restrictive since the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.

The law prohibits abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, usually at about six weeks, before most women realize they’re pregnant. Providers fighting the law have told the courts it would eliminate 85% of abortions statewide, force local clinics to close and women to travel hundreds of miles out of state for abortions — or to try to self-induce a miscarriage. Under the law, residents can also sue anyone involved in facilitating abortions for up to $10,000. Texas Right to Life created a website for people to report those suspected of violating the abortion ban.

“This law opens up a bounty system, a vigilante-type system, that calls into question anyone who provides an abortion,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four Texas clinics and had sued to stop the ban.

She said clinic staff rushed overnight to provide abortions to dozens of waiting patients before the law to effect Wednesday.

“Our waiting rooms were filled in all of our clinics,” Hagstrom Miller said, with staff in tears asking her, “What can we do?”

Outside their Fort Worth clinic, antiabortion protesters shined lights through the windows and called police twice to ensure the law was enforced, she said: “We were under surveillance.”

“We’re waiting to see how this shakes out in the federal and state courts,” he said, which could take weeks. “We hope that it will remain in effect.”

By: Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Pojman doesn’t expect Planned Parenthood to make headway in the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature, whose members have already vowed to propose new abortion restrictions next year.

“If they’re loing to gut any of our substantive informed-consent laws, including the sonogram laws, or prohibitions for funding for elective abortions or other protective measures that have been passed over the last 20 years, I would call this a publicity stunt,” he said of Planned Parenthood. “None of those attempts to repeal any of those laws would have any chance whatsoever.”

By: MOLLY HENNESSY-FISKE

“The reason we don’t recommend that state legislatures pass complete bans on abortion at this time is the Supreme Court will very quickly strike them down and the states end up paying attorneys’ fees to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life. “We have to wait until the time is right.”