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Texas Lawmakers Won’t Let Supreme Court Ruling Stop Them From Restricting Abortion

Anti-abortion advocates outside of the June Supreme Court decision on a Texas abortion law. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Anti-abortion advocates outside of the June Supreme Court decision on a Texas abortion law. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Texas conservatives aren’t known for surrendering under pressure — even when their arguments have been proven false by the highest court in the country.

With a few months to lick their wounds following a June blow in the Supreme Court, which struck down a law that forced dozens of Texas clinics to close, anti-abortion advocates in the state are reigniting their fight to tear down women’s reproductive rights.

After watching their opponents win over the Supreme Court justices with hard facts on just how damaging years of abortion clinic closures in Texas have been for the state’s women, anti-abortion groups are attempting to do the same. They want data to back up their argument that abortion should be further restricted.

The data they are looking for — records of botched abortions, deaths linked to abortion procedures, statistics on patients’ ages, the gestational age of aborted fetuses, and other details — may be hard to find, if not illegal under privacy laws.

Why? Because there aren’t any numbers supporting the idea that abortion is dangerous in the first place.

“Lawmakers were put out by the Supreme Court, they were skunked. And now are in a mood to try and make some moves.”

“There is very little evidence that supports restrictions to abortion. I haven’t seen any,” said Elizabeth Nash, the states issue manager at the Guttmacher Institute. “All evidence that exists proves the need for abortions.”

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There is no recent record of any Texas women dying from complications related to abortion. But even though these statistics come straight from the conservative state’s department of health, anti-abortion advocates have decided not to believe them.

The numbers “are much smaller than what one would expect,” said Joe Pojman, the executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, in an interview with Politico, adding that the data “defies common sense.”

TAL has indicated its intention to push clinics to release more data on abortion patients, in hopes of finding something to back their currently empty arguments.

In reality, pregnancy has been shown to be far more risky than abortion in Texas. A study to be published in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that the number of pregnancy-related deaths skyrocketed in the state between 2010 and 2012.

That coincided with the Texas legislature’s 2011 decision to cut family planning funding by two-thirds, forcing 60 women’s health clinics to close. The state replaced those clinics with “crisis pregnancy centers,” non-medical, religious based counseling centers.

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“It’s a tragedy and it really is an embarrassment,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin whose work informed the SCOTUS ruling, in an interview with the Dallas Morning News. “It really seems like that’s where the state officials should be focusing on trying to improve health and safety.”

But instead, GOP legislators are taking cues from anti-abortion organizations trying to scramble to keep reproductive health clinics closed.

“Lawmakers were put out by the Supreme Court, they were skunked,” Nash said. “And now are in a mood to try and make some moves.”

Texas lawmakers have already introduced new rules and measures to reestablish their state’s ranking as one of least women-friendly states in the nation.

Despite the fact that the Texas legislature is in an off year (the state operates on a biennial system), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has announced that state officials must begin drafting abortion bills as soon as possible. In July, Abbott took action himself, bypassing the statehouse to propose a rule that would mandate abortion clinic staff to bury or cremate an aborted fetus.

“Gov. Abbott believes that defending the sanctity and dignity of human life is worthy of immediate action,” Ciara Matthews, the governor’s spokeswoman, told the Houston Chronicle.

“It’s a tragedy and it really is an embarrassment. It really seems like that’s where the state officials should be focusing on trying to improve health and safety.”

Nash said Texas’ next big legislative push will focus on banning later-term abortions — followed by extending wait time between doctor appointments women must obey before obtaining an abortion.

“I mean, Texas has pretty much done everything else to restrict access, these are the last things left,” Nash said.

But, she added, the Texas legislature is going to have a harder time passing these restrictive bills now that the Supreme Court quashed HB2, the name of Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion law.

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“The legislation is still very conservative, and it’s going to be very hard to move any proactive agendas next year,” she said. “But there are more organizations than ever watching and ready to push back against any restrictive legislation.”