The men and women who gathered on the sixth floor of the Hilton Hotel in Austin see it differently. “2021 is an incredibly good year,” says evangelical pastor Robin Steele, who opens the charity evening of the “Texas Alliance for Life” with a prayer. “A-men,” it comes back. At the round tables are business people, priests, nuns and loads of Texan Republicans. The vast majority of participants are white. Some women cradle babies in their arms. All speakers introduce themselves with the number of their children. One has eight.
“We have been saving 150 babies every day since September 1,” says Vice Governor Dan Patrick of Texas. “Bravo,” shouted several hundred diners. The lieutenant governor encourages them: “Any of you can report a doctor.” After him, the long-time head of the anti-abortion association comes to the microphone. Joe Pojman makes it clear that SB8 was just the beginning: “We also enforced Law Number 1280. It will come into force as soon as the Supreme Court overturns the terrible 1973 decision. ”The law forbids any abortion“ after conception ”. For Joe Pojman it is no longer a question of whether the Supreme Court will rule in his favor, but when. He receives standing applause.
The 62-year-old aerospace engineer worked for NASA in Houston for a while. But Joe Pojman’s life’s work is the fight against the right to abortion, which the Supreme Court guaranteed in a landmark decision in 1973. He is convinced that life begins “with conception” and ends with “natural death”. And that is what he wants to make the law of the land. In 1988 he registered his organization with the Texas tax authorities. Since then he has worked on the politicians and the media in Texas. And organized annual demonstrations and “for life” prayers outside the Austin Capitol. After 33 years he thinks he is about to win. “We can expect a decision from the Supreme Court next June or July,” he promised on the benefit evening.
The men and women in the hall call themselves “lifeguards”, like the violent criminals who attacked gynecologists with explosives and firearms in the 80s and 90s. But they have a different style. You go uncovered. Are legalistic. And know that they have strong majorities in the institutions. Not only in Texas, where the Republicans control both chambers and the governorship with super majorities, but above all in the Supreme Court, where ex-President Donald Trump has sent three new judges who reject the landmark verdict of 1973.
Planned Parenthood’s work is being hindered
Joe Pojman and Republican politicians from Texas celebrate their legislative successes on the benefit evening. This includes the fact that all public funds have been withdrawn from Planned Parenthood in Texas. The funds have been diverted to “Alternatives to Abortion” programs that seek to persuade women to carry out unwanted pregnancies and possibly adopt them.
These include that sex education in schools can only take place with parental consent, and that teachers in Texas are encouraged to encourage students to abstain from marriage. And that includes the fact that unwanted pregnant women in Texas, long before SB8, had to endure all kinds of harassment in order to get an abortion: They have to look at ultrasound images, listen to electrical impulses and read texts that spread misinformation – including the claim that that termination of pregnancy increases the risk of cancer.
In decades of work, groups like the Texas Alliance for Life haven’t just enforced laws. They also managed to impose their ideas and their words on the abortion debate. They popularized terms like “abortion industry” and “killing” which suggest that the other side is driven by greed and lust for murder. You brought the keyword “heartbeat law” into circulation even though an embryo in the sixth week does not yet have a heart with valves that could beat. And they call embryos the size of peas with no arms or legs “babies”. The lieutenant governor goes further. He gives them a nationality. “We’re saving little Texans,” he says.
For women who want to decide for themselves whether they want a child, the participants in the benefit evening have no empathy. Regarding pregnancy after a rape, Debra Damman, businesswoman and active member of a Pentecostal congregation, shrugged, “We may not have planned it, but God has a plan.” For Joe Pojman, rape and incest are “terrible crimes”. But he sees no justification for abortion in it: “The woman can keep the baby or give it up for adoption.”
Debra Damman has been part of the association for twelve years. Her next goal is a total abortion ban in Texas. But even if this should happen, she wants to continue her commitment. She regards Texas as a “leader”: for the US and the world. Shawn Carney also sees it this way, giving a half-hour speech to encourage those present to make more donations. The goal for the evening is $ 400,000. Shawn Carney’s talent for blending Bible quotes and politics caught the Texas Conservative’s mind when he was a student. Shawn Carney is now a Texan export. Together with evangelical churches he organizes “40 days for life” campaigns, writes books and tours the world.
Enlightened women defend themselves against the language with which Joe Pojman and his colleagues try to make politics. “We’re not promoting right-wing rhetoric,” says Michelle Anderson of the Afiya Center in Dallas, “in the sixth week an embryo is a tissue that develops.” But the terms have caught on in public.
Even in Texas hospitals, abortion is taboo. “Of course, the law doesn’t prevent abortions, it just makes them less safe,” says 29-year-old nurse trainer Radiance Bean in Dallas. But she thinks it’s impossible to make that a topic in her workplace. “Then a donor would immediately threaten to withdraw his donation.” Last year, the black instructor ran into a wall with a topic that is important to her. She wanted to offer a class on inequalities in medical care for black and white patients at the Dallas State University Hospital. The HR department gave her 30 days “to look for a new job.”