By: Dorothea Hahn

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.”

By: Brandon Mulder

Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for life — which is backing a proposal to ban abortion beginning at fertilization (Texas law bans abortions after 20 weeks) — argues that Planned Parenthood places women on a pathway that, for many, ultimately leads to abortion.

Although “it’s difficult to make a causal relationship,” Pojman argues that many women seeking pregnancy-related services at Planned Parenthood are ultimately getting referred to Planned Parenthood abortion facilities.

“There’s definitely referrals going on,” he said. “That’s certainly part of Planned Parenthood’s practices — is to refer women for abortions.”

And women who are seeking non-pregnancy related health services build a “client relationship” with Planned Parenthood. Then, if those women later become pregnant, Pojman said, “they know who to call.”

“A woman searching for breast or cervical cancer screening or high blood pressure screening, if they do a pregnancy test on her and she’s positive, then they’d do a referral to their abortion facility,” he said.

However, because medical referral information is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Pojman said he hasn’t seen any records showing this connection.

“It’s reasonable to believe that fewer women going to Planned Parenthood facilities for any reason will likely result in fewer abortions,” he said.

Planned Parenthood spokesperson Sarah Wheat says that none of these claims have factual basis. A standard component of family planning services is providing nondirective pregnancy counseling, Wheat said. All patients are informed of all of their legal and medical options.

“Providing patients with referrals for all of their medical options is not unique to Planned Parenthood,” Wheat said.

Furthermore, Pojman’s argument ignores the fact that many women rely on Planned Parenthood to obtain contraception and avoid unwanted pregnancies, said Aiken. According to Planned Parenthood’s own data, 82,400 Texas women received birth control through Planned Parenthood last year.

Abortion referrals “seems to be exactly what would be precipitated by kicking Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid,” Aiken said. “If there are no Medicaid funds to help low-income patients get contraception, I would imagine that more abortion referrals would be necessary precisely because of the lack of funding.”

Healthy Texas Women
Pojman said Texas’ own family planning services program could easily absorb the 8,800 Planned Parenthood Medicaid patients.

Created by the Legislature, Healthy Texas Women launched in 2016 to provide family planning and health care services to low-income women. It served 173,000 women in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available.

By: Andrew Zelinski

It certainly felt that way on Saturday, when hundreds of “right to life” proponents gathered outside the Capitol for a protest marking the forty-eighth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Some joined a line of honking vehicles proceeding down Congress Avenue and held signs through open sunroofs, while others congregated on the sidewalk and chanted slogans including “Hey-hey, ho-ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go.” In the crowd, a pair of middle-school girls jointly yelled “Abortion is murder!” and waved signs at passing drivers, jumping around as if they were at a Justin Bieber concert.

Some ardent anti-abortion advocates, such as Joe Pojman, who helped organize the rally and leads the nonprofit Texas Alliance for Life, are not convinced that the U.S. Supreme Court has shifted enough ideologically to overturn Roe, but they’d still be happy if the high court unravels the precedent a little. “We don’t think it’s likely the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade in total anytime soon,” said Pojman. “We’re not sure that the court is ready.” He wants state lawmakers to prepare for the moment it is.

By: Heather Clark

Joe Pojman of the Texas Alliance for Life lamented the funding in a statement, remarking in part, “The City of Austin continues to brashly work around the state law passed in 2019, banning contracts between government entities and abortion providers and their affiliates.”

“This blatant disregard for the intent of the legislature and the governor shows how detached this Council is from the vast majority of our taxpayers who do not want their tax dollars funding abortion in any way, shape, or form.”

He said that City Council missed an opportunity to rather fund crisis pregnancy centers that offer help and hope to abortion-minded mothers, “as there more than a dozen life-affirming agencies located within the Austin City limits.”

By: Mary Jackson

“I may be taking all the arrows right now, and we have endured vicious attacks, but pro-life groups are capable of this important work, and they will continue to do it,” Everett said.

Joe Pojman, executive director for the Texas Alliance for Life, hopes that message comes through despite The Heidi Group’s challenges with the state.

Healthy Texas Women provided care for 172,023 low-income women last year, a 30 percent increase from the year prior. Providers cannot provide abortions or have an affiliation with an abortion facility.

“The program has had sensational success in meeting the needs of low-income women,” Pojman said. “It has done far more than Planned Parenthood was ever doing for Texas women.”

By: Andrea Zelinski

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 look at Roe v. Wade,” said Pojman.