The strategy of bringing the abortion fight to the local level has divided even the staunchest anti-abortion activists. Some groups, including the Texas Alliance for Life, have warned against taking an inflammatory approach that is unlikely to survive a legal contest and could set the anti-abortion movement back in court.
Joe Pojman, executive director of the anti-abortion advocacy group Texas Alliance for Life, said he would not advise a local government to pass an ordinance like Joaquin’s.“It’s not well-drafted, and it may not survive a court challenge,” he said. “We just don’t think a court is going to uphold a right to bring a civil lawsuit for an action that the Supreme Court has held to be a constitutional right.”
A productive outlet for anti-abortion activists, Pojman said, would be to “concentrate on reelecting pro-life incumbents at the state level and to concentrate on reelecting Donald Trump,” who may have the opportunity to appoint additional conservative justices to the high court.
That approach isn’t satisfactory to Mark Lee Dickson, the East Texas activist, pastor and sometimes fireworks salesman who has traveled the state to encourage than 40 local governments to pass similar ordinances to Joaquin’s. So far, the towns of Waskom, Omaha and Naples have done so; Gilmer opted to pass a version that does not criminalize emergency contraception.
Many city councils “really don’t want a business that murders innocent children on a regular basis,” Dickson, 34, said. “They’re against the mass murders we see in school shootings, and they’re against the mass murders we see of equal number in these abortion clinics.”
He’s set his sights on a long list of towns across East and North Texas and says many have agreed to consider their own ordinance.
In July, the city council of Mineral Wells rejected a version of the ordinance, reportedly because of lawsuit concerns.
Pojman echoed those concerns, pointing to a federal judge’s decision this summer to award $2.3 million in attorneys’ fees to the Center for Reproductive Rights in a long-running Texas case over a sweeping anti-abortion law that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately struck down.
“That’s money for the other side, which is a setback and bad precedent,” Pojman said.
To anyone who believes @MQSullivan’s account of this matter, may I offer to sell you some Florida swampland? I have lost count of how many times he and @EmpowerTexans have demonstrably lied about me and Texas Alliance for Life. #TXlege
It’s good timing for abortion opponents, who are concerned about Planned Parenthood’s further expansion into West Texas.
“We believe they would to have the financial help of a city or hospital district or county in West Texas,” said Joe Pojman, president of Texas Alliance for Life. “But that’s not going to be possible now, because of SB 22.”
While abortion opponents say the bill is aimed at cutting off funding, they are also unsure about how the legislation could impact nonfinancial partnerships.
But they disagree with the notion that it will decrease access to contraception, cancer screenings and other health care provided by clinics that don’t perform abortions.
“It’s crying wolf,” Pojman said. “Absolutely untrue.”
He and other abortion opponents say that any services lost by cutting off taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood and others will be supplemented by providers in the state’s Healthy Texas Women program.
Meanwhile, Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, fears that any legal battle could uphold abortion rights while funneling potentially millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees to abortion providers. Those worries stem from a legal battle over a 2013 Texas statelaw that required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to comply with the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of that law in late 2016. The decision has been hailed by abortion rightsadvocates as their biggest Supreme Court victory since Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case that reaffirmed the constitutional right of abortion established in Roe v. Wade. The attorneys’ fees from that case still haven’t been resolved in court, but the state could pay roughly $4.5 million.
“That’s a big setback because it’d be a windfall for the abortion industry,” Pojman said. “More than a dozen cases are in the pipe to overturn Roe v. Wade. We don’t need any .”
SB 24 states that a physician must hand the patient a hard copy of the materials – an important clarification, according to Joe Pojman, the executive director for the Texas Alliance for Life. Current law says the information must be provided in a conversation or on.