Pro-Choice Groups Speak Out as Texas Republicans Push to Limit Abortions

Abortion-rights protesters gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of SCOTUS' ruling on Texas' last major abortion law, 2013's House Bill 2.EXPAND
Abortion-rights protesters gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of SCOTUS' ruling on Texas' last major abortion law, 2013's House Bill 2.
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Correction, 4/9/2021: A previous version of this article misquoted Joe Pojman. It also misnamed the author of HB 1280. It has been amended.

This week, Texas Republican lawmakers are sinking their teeth deeper into certain red-meat issues.

On Wednesday, lawmakers on the state's Public Health Committee heard testimony for and against a handful of anti-abortion bills.

Anti-abortion advocates believe their chances are better than ever to pass new restrictions, given the current conservative makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court. But pro-choice groups warn that some of the proposed legislation is both unconstitutional and harmful to women.

Every Texan knows and loves someone who’s had an abortion, said Caroline Duble, political director for the pro-choice abortion advocacy group Avow.

“I think it’s a real shame that in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the Public Health Committee chose to prioritize banning abortion and further jeopardizing our access to health care,” she said.

One of the most “egregious” bills for consideration is House Bill 1515, Duble said. Filed by Stephenville state Rep. Shelby Slawson, it would amount to a near-total ban on abortion; it would ban the procedure as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks.

While it's similar to some other fetal heartbeat bills across the country, Duble said HB 1515 is “uniquely worse” because it opens the door for “frivolous and harassing lawsuits” against doctors. The bill would also allow anyone to sue providers, abortion funds and family members if they believe they’ve seen a violation of abortion regulations.

Duble said under the bill, a rapist could even sue a doctor who provides an abortion for their victim.

“That is very concerning,” she said. “It raises eyebrows across the country.”

But much of the pro-life movement is driven by women, said Joe Pojman, executive director of the anti-abortion lobbying organization Texas Alliance for Life. His group is particularly fond of HB 1280. Filed by state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, it would ban abortions unless the pregnancy poses significant health risks to the mother.

Texas Alliance for Life also strongly supports HB 2337. Filed by Fort Worth state Rep. Stephanie Klick, the bill would limit the use of abortion-inducing drugs to around seven weeks and ban such drugs from being sent to patients via mail or delivery.

Pojman said HB 2337 would prevent undue risk to women seeking to undergo chemical abortions in Texas. Such procedures make up around 40% of all abortions in the state, he said.

“We strongly believe … that we have to be pro-woman and protect the health and safety of women,” Pojman said.

Another bill filed by Tyler state Rep. Matt Schaefer, HB 3218, would ban late-term abortions even when the fetus has a severe and irreversible abnormality. It would also prohibit “discriminatory” abortions on the basis of disability, race, sex or ethnicity.

Rosann Mariappuram is the executive director of an Austin-based nonprofit Jane’s Due Process, which helps steer young Texans through the state’s abortion regulations. She testified against HB 3218 at Wednesday's public hearing.

State lawmakers are still continuing a “relentless effort” to attack abortion rights in the court, she said, even though a recent Progress Texas poll showed that more than half of Texas support abortion rights. Similar efforts in other states were stopped because they were found to be unconstitutional, she added.

“Folks know these are unconstitutional, and they still keep trying to pass them,” Mariappuram said. “I think it really shows that they don’t believe in constitutional rights.”

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