“The bottom is, these abortions must be ayed,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, one of the state’s main anti-abortion groups. He said Texas was not “singling out any particular procedure or any segment of the health care industry.”
People on both sides of the abortion debate rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the first Wednesday of this month, much as they did on the first Wednesday of March four years ago. Joe Pojman from the Texas Alliance for Life attended both rallies and said they had striking similarities. Both happened on clear mornings the day after Super Tuesday primaries in presidential election years. And both times, the Supreme Court heard lawsuits over whether abortionists must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Not only did the court battle cost the state millions of dollars, but it also set back the anti-abortion movement by making it harder for states to pass certain regulations for abortion facilities without running afoul of the high court’s decision, said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life which advocates for stiffer abortion regulations.
Anti-abortion advocates had miscalculated the leanings of the Supreme Court, he said. Since then, he said his group has resisted the urge to support far-reaching anti-abortion proposals in the Legislature in favor of others they believe would survive a federal court challenge.
Pojman said anti-abortion advocates need to think long-term if they want to overturn Roe v. Wade, which established legal precedent protecting a woman’s right to an abortion. The long-time activist said he is not confident the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court is favorable to overturning Roe v. Wade — but it could be in a few years.
“We are telling our people that they need to stay focused on re-electing President Donald Trump because he has a track record of nominating justices who are possibly willing to take an honest lo at Roe v. Wade,” said Pojman.
“These organizations will provide what they need and it is far beyond birth. We have never met a woman that sought abortion as her first choice. Typically, women seek abortion because they feel they have no way out. The City of Austin is not helping them in those circumstances. What we should be doing is using taxpayer dollars to promote compassionate alternatives to an abortion,” said Pojman.
Joe Pojman, director of the anti-abortion organization Texas Alliance for Life, said his organization would rather the city money go toward supporting women as they explore options other than abortion.
“We’d like to see them using that $150,000 to promote childbirth and alternatives to abortion,” Pojman said.
Texas Alliance for Life, one of the state’s biggest anti-abortion advocacy groups, came out against the bill. The measure “bans abortions on non-viable (fetuses) when the heartbeat is detected, which the Supreme Court does not permit,” the group said in explaining its decision. “This law has been passed in three states and struck down in all three, Arkansas, North Dakota and Iowa. Requests by Arkansas and North Dakota to review the cases have been denied by the Supreme Court.”
Passing the law, according to the group, could actually strengthen abortion providers in Texas because of the attorneys’ fees Texas could be forced to shell out to its opponents if the state is sued over the law and loses.
Texas Wins Some, Loses Some
In their rulings, the judges who have struck down previous “heartbeat bills” have cited the standard created by the Supreme Court in its decision in Casey. Casey holds that states have an interest in regulating abortion, but they cannot create an “undue burden” on women seeking the procedure. The “undue burden” standard guided the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the 2016 case that saw the high court overturn a Texas law that required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic at which they were performing the procedure. The law also would have required abortion clinics to be outfitted to the same standards as hospital surgical suites.
Although Texas’ law was struck down, it still forced dozens of clinics in the state to close during the time it was enforced as the suit against it wound its way through the courts. Fewer clinics means longer waits for appointments. Combine longer wait times with basic human anatomy, and Texas’ heartbeat bill, while not imposing criminal penalties on women seeking abortions, would have made getting an abortion in Texas essentially impossible.
“A six-week ban is an abortion ban, because most women don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks,” says Kelly Hart, the senior director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “You miss your period, that’s usually your first sign. Then how long do you wait before you get a test, because maybe you hope you’re late for some reason? Maybe you give it a few days or whatever. You take the test, it comes back positive. You go to your doctor, maybe, to have it confirmed. There’s a process.”
Even if a woman makes an appointment the day she realizes she might be pregnant and sees a doctor as soon as possible, she might not meet the law’s requirements.
“If this law was in place and you immediately pick up the phone to call one of us, it’s a matter of when we can fit you in. Then you have to come in for your (state-mandated) sonogram. It’s rarely a two-day wait. It’s usually because of scheduling and all that. This is just another way to do an abortion ban,” Hart says.
In addition to not wanting to pay for pro-abortion rights supporters’ next lawsuit with their attorney’s fees, Texas Alliance for Life fears the effect of negative precedent on future abortion laws in Texas and around the United States. In the eyes of the group’s special counsel Paul Benjamin Linton, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts isn’t a sure vote to overturn Roe, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
“The chief justice’s opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act gives one pause, as does his (in my view) exaggerated respect for precedent (which, to some extent, may be shared by Justice Brett Kavanaugh),” Linton wrote last year. “Although the chief justice might be willing to join an opinion overruling Roe at some point, it is doubtful he would cast the decisive (fifth) vote, particularly in the absence of further erosion of Roe. In other words, if his vote were needed, it is unlikely that it would be obtained.”
Until Roe v. Wade is overturned, the group would rather ask the Supreme Court questions it hasn’t already answered in an effort to chip away at the foundations of the law.
“Ignoring the Supreme Court is not a realistic possibility and would have no benefit. Regardless of whether the Legislature or the attorney general ignores the Supreme Court (which they will not do), all abortion laws must be enforced and prosecuted by local district attorneys and county prosecutors,” Texas Alliance for Life says in its 2019 legislative guide. “All DAs and prosecutors have taken an oath of office to uphold the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court. They will not enforce any law when prohibited by the Supreme Court.”