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Monday, October 18, 2021

An Open Letter to a Young Texan

Dear Young Texan,

I am not sure how to address you. I do not know your name. I do not know your gender. I do not even know, definitively, whether you will grow up in Texas. Many years will pass before you will be old enough to read this. But with a few clues, I hope that this open letter can reach the right person:

  • Your mother is Texan.
  • You have three older siblings.
  • You were likely born around March 15, 2022 (your due date).
  • Your mother was incarcerated at the time of your birth, about seven months into a five-year sentence. Her conviction was probably drug-related. 
I know these things because before you were even born, you were featured in a news article. The title of that article, which appeared in 19th News, is "67 abortions in 17 hours: Inside a Texas clinic’s race to beat new six-week abortion ban." The Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect on September 1, 2021. Your mother took you to an abortion facility to die on August 31, 2021. 

Thankfully, you survived. In the article, abortionist Marva Sadler laments that she was unable to kill you. The thought that Sadler "couldn't help everyone" destroy their babies that day gave her "waves of sadness and pain."

You have come to my mind many times since I read that article. The Texas law that saved your life was blocked for two days, then reinstated. The media coverage has been intense. Mainstream reporters may occasionally mention women "being forced to carry pregnancies to term" — but they never, ever mention you, or anyone like you. 

I hope beyond hope that when you read this, America's attitude will be vastly different. I hope you learned about Roe's reversal in history class. I hope that your classmates reacted with horror when they read about the "pro-choice" ideology that motivated people like Marva Sadler. I hope that in your time, mothers in need receive real solutions, not violence.

I hope that you were able to forgive your mother for considering ending your life. She was desperate, and the abortion industry worked hard for decades to make killing a baby seem like an acceptable solution to women's problems. I thought about you while I recently watched the 2012 film ParaNorman; its central message is that fear can make people do terrible things, even kill an innocent child. I hope that your mother was able to conquer her fear and have a relationship with you.

Above all, young Texan, I want you to know that you are precious. You are not "irreparable harm." You are a human being. And if all the efforts of all the pro-life people in Texas and throughout the country resulted in only your life being saved, the effort was worth it.


[Photo credit: Brandi Alexandra on Unsplash]

Friday, October 15, 2021

Why Women Didn’t Need ‘Roe’ to Get Ahead: An Interview With the Head of Secular Pro-Life

Pro-life Catholic reporter Christine Rousselle recently interviewed Kelsey Hazzard (pictured), the president of Secular Pro-Life, for an article in the National Catholic Register about the upcoming Dobbs case at the Supreme Court. An excerpt from that article appears below. 

* * *

This December, the
U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Many legal experts say it presents the most momentous test yet of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. At issue is the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 2018 law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

As with any high-profile Supreme Court case, dozens of amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," briefs have been filed both in support of and in opposition to the Mississippi law.

Kelsey Hazzard, an attorney and the founder and president of the group Secular Pro-Life, is one of the signers of an amicus brief supporting Mississippi's pro-life law. The brief argues that women's "social, economic, and political opportunities" were already increasing before Roe, and that abortion is not necessary for women's socioeconomic success 

The following is a transcript of CNA's interview with Hazzard. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about yourself. What is your personal and faith background? How did you come to the place where you are professionally?

I grew up attending a United Methodist church, which is officially a "pro-choice" denomination. Abortion was never discussed, from the pulpit or anywhere else. As a result, the pro-life position was not framed as "religious" for me. Once I was old enough to understand what abortion was, I came to the pro-life movement simply by applying my general values, e.g. sticking up for the "little guy." When I left Christianity for unrelated reasons (it just stopped making sense to me), my pro-life position was unaffected because it was always secular. 

Professionally, I am a lawyer in private practice; my pro-life advocacy is 100% volunteer. I earned my B.A. at the University of Miami and my J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law, and held leadership roles in the pro-life student organizations for each [university].

The amicus brief lays out an argument that, contrary to the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion has not facilitated women’s advancement and, in fact, has hurt women. Can you walk me through the brief’s argument and evidence?

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court said that even if Roe was wrong, it couldn't correct its deadly error because American women had come to rely upon abortion for their professional advancement. This is the infamous "reliance interest." And yet in the decades since Casey, abortion rates have plummeted dramatically while women have enjoyed ever-increasing gains in the workplace. Forget "correlation does not equal causation"—they don't even have correlation! 

As a professional woman myself, the fact that the highest court in the land attributes my success to the mass slaughter of preborn babies fills me with disgust. That is the polar opposite of my values, and I deserve credit for my own hard work. 

>>>Continue reading at the National Catholic Register>>>

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Study: Women explain their abortions more in terms of religion and motherhood than autonomy.

The pro-choice position has long focused on the role religious fervor plays in anti-abortion politics. Images of nuns marching with anti-abortion protestors are splashed across our front pages, and video clips of evangelical men with megaphones and Bibles protesting outside of clinics are ubiquitous online. It seems all but a forgone conclusion that an individual’s faith connects him or her to an anti-abortion ethic. A recent case study out of UC Davis, however, proposes faith can often be the foundation for choosing to have an abortion. Sarah Larissa Combellick, PhD student in the UC Davis school of sociology, conducted the case study “My Baby Went Straight to Heaven”: Morality Work in Abortion Online Storytelling. This study examined how women report their abortion experiences via social media platforms dedicated to abortion-related issues. She discovered people justify choosing abortion more often by using concepts of how we view religion and women’s places in society than by using traditional pro-choice concepts regarding autonomy.

Based on previous work featuring personal narratives, particularly the morality work of Jenny L. Davis, PhD, Ms. Combellick’s study collected data from “My Abortion, My Life,” a website hosted by the Ohio Abortion Clinic, Preterm. Expecting to see responses mirroring traditional pro-choice tropes, particularly “my body my choice,” she instead noted a trend of reframing the conversation and using religion to justify the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Only 1/4 of women used the traditional reasoning, while 2/3 (including some who also referenced autonomy) reframed their stories in the context of religion or social expectations for women – usually expectations supported by a history of religiosity. The two most common morality-related themes were as follows:

  1. Some abortions are justified by claiming that, rather than being an example of lack of motherly instinct, they’re the result of deeper-than-typical motherlove. Women are killing their unborn for the sake of existing or future children. In essence, these women are the ultimate mothers because they are sacrificing one child for the sake of others.“It was the best decision for me at this point in my life. Instead of worrying about how to feed another mouth, I will be able to focus on my school and the children I already have. More poverty would lessen the quality of life for the ones I have already.”
  2. Some abortions are justified because the woman believes her child will go straight to heaven and avoid a life of pain and suffering. This is not limited to stories where a fetus has been diagnosed with an anomaly. “I prayed and lifted all that was weighing upon me to God. And, with all the love in my heart, I gave the potential life growing within me back to our Creator…”

Contributors to “My Abortion, My Story” re-moralize their personal narratives; they make their decisions seem like the only rational choice according to society’s unspoken rules -- in this case using how we interpret religion and/or women’s roles in society based on cultural tradition. Ms. Combellick also noted findings of abortion stories from her study were similar to findings highlighted by previous studies in terms of accepting blame: in particular, many women denied their own agency in making the abortion decision by placing the blame on the shoulders of parents and/or partners.

While Ms. Combellick did not note this specifically, adopting identities where victimization and sacrifice are primary themes seems to be key in re-moralizing work in terms of abortion. Women synthesize those identities while avoiding disparaging the act of abortion by invoking a higher moral good. The idea of taking on their unborn children’s suffering, and of sacrificing a life with them, can be easily woven into the fabric of extant religious traditions – particularly Christianity, which as a core tenet holds self-sacrifice as the highest good. By adopting this attitude and applying it to their abortion decision they find the perfect medium to justify the abortion, thus transforming their narratives from those of social deviants to those of valuable members of society, capable of conforming to the status quo.

While the study is small, it suggests shifting the conversation away from choice and autonomy and focusing on the overall moral implications of abortion -- the intentional killing of a living human being – may be a more fruitful activism tool for both religious and secular anti-abortion advocates. It certainly illustrates the need to acknowledge a pro-choice position as more entangled with deeply held religious beliefs than we may have previously understood. As Ms. Combellick’s study shows, religion can be used as a tool to justify a woman’s choice to abort almost as easily as it can be used to denounce the act. 

Photo credit: Josh Applegate with Unsplash

[Today's guest author is Sarah St. Onge, who writes about child-loss, grief, and issues pertaining to continuing a pregnancy after a lethal anomaly has been diagnosed. You can read more of her work at shebringsjoy.com.]

Monday, October 11, 2021

Tomorrow at the Supreme Court: The Abortion-Related Case You Haven't Heard About

The pro-life community is rightly excited about Dobbs, the 15-week abortion case which could finally bring American abortion law in line with scientific consensus (life in the womb plainly exists prior to viability), popular sovereignty (most Americans oppose abortion in the second and third trimesters), and international norms (the United States is one of only seven countries that allows abortion after 20 weeks). And of course, the Texas Heartbeat Act is in the spotlight for its novel approach to saving lives. But another legal development has gone largely unnoticed — and the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments tomorrow, October 12, 2021. 

The case is Cameron v. EMW Women's Surgical Center, and it pits Kentucky's pro-life Attorney General Daniel Cameron (pictured right) against one of the state's only two abortion businesses.

Kentucky enacted a ban on dismemberment abortions (also known euphemistically as "dilation and evacuation" or "D&E") in 2018. It has been held up in court ever since. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, one step below the Supreme Court, blocked the law. But the issue the Supreme Court will consider in Cameron is not whether Kentucky's prohibition on live dismemberment will be enforced. Instead, it must decide who can advocate for the law's enforcement in court. This procedural focus makes Cameron less attention-grabbing than Dobbs or the Texas Heartbeat Act, but the case could still have profound implications.

For most of the lawsuit, Kentucky's Secretary of Health and Family Services defended the law. But when the Sixth Circuit ruled in EMW's favor, the Secretary declined to take the case any further. Two days later, Attorney General Cameron filed a motion to intervene in the case, so that he could take the Secretary's place and continue the legal proceedings. As his brief puts it, "the Attorney General’s motion functioned to hand off the defense of Kentucky’s law from one state official to another before any appellate deadlines ran."

The Sixth Circuit, however, found that the motion to intervene was untimely. EMW argues that Attorney General Cameron is bound by his office's decision to get out of the lawsuit shortly after it was filed. The kicker: it wasn't actually his office at the time. That decision was made by the previous Attorney General — none other than the current governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, who is staunchly pro-abortion. As Vox author Ian Millhiser sums it up, "while the 2019 election flipped the Kentucky governorship from red to blue, that same election made Cameron attorney general — meaning that the attorney general's office flipped from blue to red." 

A coalition of twenty states filed a brief in support of Attorney General Cameron, making the point that a state's duly enacted laws should not rise or fall upon such vagaries. They note the gamesmanship that can arise if a state is not able to easily transfer defense of a law from one official to another, in the form of "strategic surrenders." The threat is particularly acute "where a single state officer shares the policy objectives of plaintiffs and is willing to capitulate in litigation to permit them to achieve those objectives. Such shenanigans deprive the citizens of states of the fruits of their democracies in a very tangible manner." In other words, install a pro-abortion activist in a key enforcement role, and it won't matter how many state legislators got elected on a pro-life platform. 

If Dobbs does in fact revise Roe v. Wade and allow states to enact popular limits on second- and third-trimester abortions, it makes sense that abortion supporters will respond with exactly that strategy. Cameron gives us a glimpse of how that might play out. 

[Photo credit: National Association of Attorneys General]

Friday, October 8, 2021

Jayke and Makenna: An Adoption Story

As told to Lisa Bast. 

She was unmarried, struggling with a heroin addiction, and already had two children who her parents were trying to help her raise. This baby would be her third in three years. She had no longing to be a mother again nor was her family supportive of her giving birth to yet another child. For her an abortion would be the solution to her problem. That is, until co-worker Jacob "Jayke" Brown stepped in. 

"My co-worker had asked for a couple of days off to have her abortion," Jayke says. "My supervisor knew that I had been considering adopting a child, so she convinced my colleague to reach out to me to discuss other options. When I met with her, I knew right away it felt right to adopt her baby and to save the child from abortion. I didn’t know at the time, though, the baby would be born drug-addicted."

Jayke holds pro-life views and believes a baby is formed at conception. He was not hesitant about becoming a father to an infant. Seeing his genuine desire to raise her baby, his colleague agreed to carry the baby full-term and Jayke immediately initiated the adoption process. Because it was a private adoption, he was required to undergo home and fire inspections, extensive background checks and to enroll in parenting classes. Additionally, he went to every medical appointment with his co-worker. While pregnant, she was put on methadone as a "step-down" drug — but after delivery, she quickly went back to abusing heroin. 

Because baby Makenna was born with an addiction, she had to remain in the hospital for 30 days. Jayke never missed spending a day with her during that time. It was a challenging journey even before he brought his daughter home, but Jayke was in it for the long haul. 

He said, "After a few days, the birth mother signed over her rights and six months and one day later she legally was my adopted daughter. During that six-month period, we had already gone to court and did all the necessary paperwork."

Jayke relished being a father to baby Makenna. Fortunately, she was warmly welcomed by most of Jayke’s family and friends. Early on, his partner and a live-in friend assisted with her care. But it was Jayke’s mother who was his biggest ally and was especially instrumental in Makenna's upbringing during her early childhood years and beyond. As such, Jayke moved from Columbus to North Canton to be closer to her and described the decision to relocate "the easiest and the hardest." 

While Jayke attempted to keep in contact with Makenna's birth mother, she relapsed into her drug addiction six months after his daughter was born. He made the tough decision to end further contact with her. She died a few years later. Jayke has been as open as possible with Makenna about her birth family but for now, reserves telling her the most troubling information.

"I have told her most things except about her birth mother wanting to have the abortion and about the drug use," says Jayke. "I will tell her at some point, but when the time is right. She just knows that her birth mom was very sick and wanted to find her a forever home of a family that would love her. We do stay in contact with her uncle, aunt and grandparents and see them about twice a year. They love her, which is great, but understand I’m her father now."

Now almost nine years old, Makenna is growing up to be a delightful young lady and Jayke is deeply grateful for the privilege of being her daddy. 

"The bond between my daughter and me is indescribable," he said. "She is my mini me and she has me wrapped around not just one, but all of her fingers. DNA does not necessarily make a parent or a family. Love, care, compassion, compromise, nurture, sharing the world, and more does."

He relates a special time when Makenna was reading him a bedtime story and held his hand while they sang their favorite nighttime song. Afterward, she tenderly whispered to him, "thanks for being my daddy!"

He said, "I know how simple that sounds, but that truly cut so deep in my soul that I had a few tears roll out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I just held her close and whispered back, "thanks for being my daughter!"

While he never regretted his decision to adopt Makenna, Jayke wishes the adoption process was easier and less expensive. "Adoption is a wonderful route to build a family and I know so many people would be happy to adopt," he said. "But the process is so complex and expensive. If this would change, perhaps more kids would be in loving, caring and safe homes – something I wish for every child in the foster care system."

No doubt, Jayke's adoption of Makenna was an unusual situation. Even so, Jayke believes there are others considering abortion who may be open to another avenue as his colleague was. He advises others not to hesitate to reach out to someone who is struggling and stand up to and support the unborn child. 

"There are always ways you can provide support," he said. "Offer anything and everything, if necessary. Just be there for the person. Hopefully, you can help save a life."

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Announcing the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising

Secular Pro-Life is led by three pro-life atheist women of varying political persuasions. Monica Snyder, the Executive Director, is a conservative; Kelsey Hazzard, the President, is a moderate; and Terrisa Bukovinac, the Vice President, is our resident dirty liberal hippie. In all seriousness, we love Terrisa, and we know that the pro-life cause cannot succeed without the vital contributions of left-leaning people. We are thrilled that she has launched a new organization, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, to take back progressivism from monied abortion industry interests. The speech she gave on the steps of the Supreme Court last Friday night is one for the history books. 

* * *

What does it mean to be progressive? Well, ask a hundred progressives and you'll get at least a hundred answers. But a few common themes will emerge: To be progressive, you must be on the side of the oppressed, never the oppressor. To be progressive, you must be in solidarity with low-income people and trust them to know their own needs. To be progressive, you must stick up for the little guy.

The abortion industry turns all of that on its head. They'll tell you that to be progressive, you have to endorse mass acts of violence against children in the womb, who are utterly incapable of defending themselves. They'll tell you that to be progressive, you must ignore the voices of low-income people — who are more pro-life than the wealthy by huge margins. If Americans earning less than $40,000 a year dictated abortion policy in this country, Roe v. Wade would have been swept into the dustbin of history years ago. But never mind that; in this twisted perversion of "progressivism," it's the rich who know best. And they'll tell you that to be progressive, you absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, stick up for the littlest humans. 

But we know that abortion is not progress. Abortion is a regress, to the barbaric pseudo-morality of "might makes right." As progressives, we will not stand for it. We are reclaiming progressivism for life. Wherever you find fake progressivism bought by blood money, we will be there, and we will be LOUD. It is time for a Progressive. Anti-Abortion. Uprising!

The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising is about speaking truth to power, not destroying the powerless. It is about investing in the lives of parents and children, not pretending that women have to kill their babies to succeed in a man's world. When I see giant corporations signing onto "pro-choice" letters, condemning pro-life states like Texas, I have to wonder: what are their parental leave policies like? How much are they counting on abortion to save them a buck and pad their bottom line?

People matter more than profit. Human lives matter more than money. THAT is the heart of progressivism. The sun is setting on the American abortion industry, and the world is watching. Can an authentic human rights movement succeed without billionaire backing, without corporate financing, without the support of professional elites? For the sake of millions of babies who have yet to take their first breaths, we say: it can, and it must, and it will!

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Response to the Secular Pro-Choice Supreme Court Brief

Three church-state separation groups — the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Center for Inquiry, and American Atheists — have filed an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the case concerning Mississippi's law to protect children in the womb 15 weeks and older. The brief's central argument is a conspiracy theory: the signatories claim that the "underlying purpose" of anti-abortion legislation is "to enshrine into civil law a religious belief about when personhood begins," rather than to prevent the deaths of human beings, and therefore any attempt to prevent abortions violates the Establishment Clause. 

The Supreme Court has previously considered that argument and rejected it, as the brief acknowledges. An attempt to force taxpayer funding of abortion by alleging that the Hyde Amendment was religiously motivated went down in flames in the 1980 case of Harris v. McRae. The best authority they can find is a legally non-binding statement from the late Justice Stevens, who asserted the "absence of any secular purpose for the legislative declarations that life begins at conception and that conception occurs at fertilization." 

I can offer an excellent secular purpose for those declarations: they are true. They are scientific facts.

The brief does not attempt to disprove the overwhelming scientific consensus on life's beginning. Instead, it pivots to examples of pro-life legislators making religious allusions, such as condemning abortion as a form of playing god and echoing the "endowed by our creator" language of the Declaration of Independence. This proves far too much. By that standard, you would have to strike down civil rights laws as an Establishment Clause violation because Black reverends invoked the Biblical story of Moses freeing his people from bondage.

The church-state separation groups similarly point to the fact that faith-based organizations have submitted amicus briefs in support of the law as a strike against it. Conspicuously omitted is our own amicus brief, in which we clearly stated our anti-abortion position with no religious underpinning.

They conclude that "as a personal matter of conscience, the state may not compel obedience with a religious belief on when 'personhood' begins." Personhood is, of course, a philosophical and legal concept rather than a scientific one. Unlike life, personhood cannot be measured objectively. Surely my subjective belief that someone else is a non-person does not grant me immunity from homicide laws! In that regard, I would note the pro-choice Redditor who recently declared that pro-life legislators in Texas are not people; this was viewed, correctly, as a violent threat. Governments have to draw a line somewhere. The church-state separation groups prefer viability as the start of personhood, but what makes viability any more objective or less religious than fertilization? They do not say.

As a reminder, here is what a 15-week-old fetus looks like:

Via the Endowment for Human Development

The original decision in Roe v. Wade relied heavily on pseudo-religious woo to deny the reality of life in the womb. Forty-eight years later, Dobbs is the Court's chance to get it right and apply an objective standard: human rights begin when human life begins. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

September Recap!

Projects
Kelsey provided a concise legal explanation of the Texas Heartbeat Act and how the Supreme Court initially responded. Her commentary got her an invitation to the Rob Schmitt Tonight show (approximately 8m30s in) to discuss.

The National Catholic Reporter interviewed Monica for their piece "Even some Catholic pro-lifers have concerns about Texas' abortion law." Interviewed side by side with Catholic deacons and theologians, Monica was both the only atheist and the only person defending Texan efforts to outlaw abortion.

Monica presented an updated version of "Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths" at the Rehumanize International conference. A recording is pending. Meanwhile, you can review the many sources she used to create the presentation here.

Kelsey spoke to the Students for Life at UGA about the history of Secular Pro-Life and current events in the pro-life movement. (If you'd like to have Kelsey speak to a student group, email info@secularprolife.org.)

Over the summer, Terrisa relocated from sunny San Francisco to Washington DC, positioning herself to launch a progressive pro-life group designed to bring together feminists, liberals, BIPOC, secularists, LGBTQIA folk, and general left-leaning pro-lifers to end abortion extremism in the Democratic Party. See LifeNews and Fox News coverage. The launch is TONIGHT, October 1 at 6:30pm in front of the Supreme Court.

That's our girl!
Twitter
For September we gained 1,038 new followers, bringing us to 15,568 total. We sent 621 tweets, which were viewed over 1.2 million times - a new record! The stat includes over 150,000 views of this tweet emphasizing basic biological facts about embryonic hearts.
This information shouldn't be controversial, yet here we are.
Facebook
We are at 36,752 followers on Facebook. Our content was viewed 582,511 times, including 32,454 views of this post appealing to pro-life Tolkien fans.
"It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay."
Blogger
Our three most-read blog posts for September, in increasing order: Like what we do and have something to contribute? Consider writing a guest post. Guest posts help us cover a more diverse range of perspectives, topics, and experiences. If you have an idea for a piece you'd like to submit, please email us at info@secularprolife.org.
What You Can Do
There are plenty of ways to help with pro-life work. This month you could:
  • Learn about fetal development. Be prepared to talk with others about, for example, whether embryos have hearts (they do). We compiled a thread of online accessible resources here.
  • Buy lunch for your local pregnancy resource center. This can be psychologically taxing work. Give them some emotional (and nutritional) support!
  • Email Monica (monica@secularprolife.org) if you're interested in summarizing, analyzing, or opining on abortion-related peer-reviewed research.
  • And, of course, you can always donate:
If you don't use Paypal, you can also find us on Venmo (@secularprolife - under "Business" rather than "People") or go to our Facebook page and click the blue "Donate" button under our cover photo on the right.

Thank you to all of our supporters! 
Copyright © 2021 Secular Pro-Life, All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Texas Heartbeat Act: Answers to 11 Frequently-Asked Questions

Today's guest post is by Daniel Gump.

After passage of the Texas Heartbeat Act (Senate Bill 8), numerous misinformation campaigns have led to confusion among the general public as to what the legislation covers and how violations are handled.  Because of this, I have encountered several of the same questions and inaccurate statements repeated on social media over the past couple months.  The following responses address some of these questions.

1. What is excluded from the definition of “abortion”?

Health and Safety Code already defines abortions under Sec. 245.002, and the Act did not amend them. Subsection (1) states:

(1) "Abortion" means the act of using or prescribing an instrument, a drug, a medicine, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to cause the death of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant.  The term does not include birth control devices or oral contraceptives.  An act is not an abortion if the act is done with the intent to:

(A) save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child;

(B) remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by spontaneous abortion; or

(C) remove an ectopic pregnancy.

This definition is similar to those across the entire United States, as treatment for ectopic pregnancies and post-miscarriage treatment are not criminal acts in any jurisdiction.  The laws solely address intentional acts of feticide.

2. How are medical emergencies handled?

The legislation declares for Health and Safety Code §171.203-§171.205 that abortions performed or induced for legitimate medical emergencies are exempted from prosecution.  They must be logged in the woman’s medical records and retained in the physician’s own practice records.  

The existing Sec. 171.002 defines what would be considered a medical emergency:

(3)  "Medical emergency" means a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.

3. How are fetal anomalies addressed?

The Texas Heartbeat Act is silent on fetal anomalies of any type, so an unborn child with Down syndrome, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, or other conditions is protected from abortion, unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.

4. Could women be sued for procuring abortions in Texas?

No, Section 3 of the Act adds Sec. 171.206 to the Health and Safety Code.  This includes the text:

(b) This subchapter may not be construed to:

(1) authorize the initiation of a cause of action against or the prosecution of a woman on whom an abortion is performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter;

(2) wholly or partly repeal, either expressly or by implication, any other statute that regulates or prohibits abortion, including Chapter 6-1/2, Title 71, Revised Statutes;

Several other statutes already protect women from criminal abortion liability. Examples within the same code Chapter 171 include: 

Sec. 171.064.  ADMINISTRATIVE PENALTY.

(b) A penalty may not be assessed under this section against a pregnant woman who receives a medical abortion.

Sec. 171.106.  APPLICABILITY.

A woman on whom a partial-birth abortion is performed or attempted in violation of this subchapter may not be prosecuted under this subchapter or for conspiracy to commit a violation of this subchapter.

Sec. 171.152.  DISMEMBERMENT ABORTIONS PROHIBITED.

(b) A woman on whom a dismemberment abortion is performed, an employee or agent acting under the direction of a physician who performs a dismemberment abortion, or a person who fills a prescription or provides equipment used in a dismemberment abortion does not violate Subsection (a).

Sec. 171.154.  CONSTRUCTION OF SUBCHAPTER.

(d) This subchapter may not be construed to:

(1) authorize the prosecution of or a cause of action to be brought against a woman on whom an abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subchapter;

5. Could women be sued or held liable for leaving Texas to procure abortions in another state or country?

There would be no civil or criminal liabilities within Texas for women receiving abortions, so any such liabilities would fall under the jurisdictions where the abortions take place.  Holding women liable for abortions is very rare in any nations following English common law (as the US does when no statutory law exists to the contrary).

Of all 50 states, the only ones that explicitly allow for women to be criminally liable for abortions are:

6. Could taxi drivers and rideshare drivers be liable for transporting women to receive abortions?

This would take a very liberal interpretation of the new Sec. 171.208(a) to include drivers under “any person who…”

  1. performs or induces an abortion in violation of this subchapter;
  2. knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter
  3. intends to engage in the conduct described by Subdivision (1) or (2).

Drivers are multiple degrees separated from (2) aiding or abetting “performance or inducement” of abortions, and they are not (3) intending such action by transporting customers between locations.

The claim that drivers would be liable was little more than a publicity stunt by Lyft to inject themselves into discussion on the legislation.  In their press release, they were very careful to avoid use of the word “abortion” and repeatedly hid behind euphemisns like “healthcare they need,” “healthcare appointment,” “healthcare access,” etc.  This made the Texas Heartbeat Act seem like its purpose was to block women from seeing their OB/GYNs or other healthcare practitioners.

Lyft also made it clear that drivers and riders should follow a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy for any illegal activities.  The press release closed out with an announcement of a legal defense fund for drivers ferrying women in violation of the Texas Heartbeat Act, a $1 million donation to Planned Parenthood, and a link (with tracking parameters in the URL) for individuals to further donate to Planned Parenthood.

7. Could the rapist of a woman receiving an abortion sue the physician or anyone else involved for $10,000?

No, Section 3 of the Act adds Sec. 171.208(j) to the Health and Safety Code that states:

Notwithstanding any other law, a civil action under this section may not be brought by a person who impregnated the abortion patient through an act of rape, sexual assault, incest, or any other act prohibited by Sections 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code.

The Penal Code sections referenced address “Sexual Assault,” “Aggravated Sexual Assault,” and “Prohibited Sexual Conduct,” respectively.

8. Can anyone claim “bounty” after an abortion is performed?

What makes the Texas Heartbeat Act unique among fetal heartbeat legislation is that it declares any non-government individual to have standing to sue.  The claims of open bounty on abortion clinics are exaggerated, as generally only those close enough to the acts would have enough evidence to merit lawsuits.  Presumably, those close enough would include the women who had the abortions, the father of the unborn children, any relatives or guardians of either, and possibly those within their inner circles.

A random individual would have difficulty presenting a strong case, particularly with HIPAA laws and Texas’ own privacy laws concerning abortion reporting under Chapter 171 of the Health and Safety Codes.  Any individual performing or inducing abortions who provides enough details to the general public about specific violations would likely be in violation of several other laws, as well.

Any lawsuit would also have to follow established legal procedures in the state under the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, and any other applicable areas of the Revised Statutes.  A state-wide free-for-all to claim $10,000 per violation is not likely, as a claimant would have to pay court fees and attorney fees on a lawsuit with dubious chance of actually succeeding.  Plus, an award is only available once per violation (Sec. 171.208(c)).

On September 18, 2021, abortionist Alan Braid wrote an article for The Washington Post in which he admitted to violating the law.  He was careful to avoid publicly disclosing specific details, but two individuals residing out of state (Oscar Stilley and Felipe N Gomez), nevertheless, filed lawsuits against him to test the law.  As these cases are still pending, their merits are difficult to determine.

9. What method must be used to determine the fetal heartbeat?

Section 3 of the Act adds Sec. 171.203 to the Health and Safety Code, which describes the means as being “standard medical practice”:

(a) For the purposes of determining the presence of a fetal heartbeat under this section, "standard medical practice" includes employing the appropriate means of detecting the heartbeat based on the estimated gestational age of the unborn child and the condition of the woman and her pregnancy.

(b) Except as provided by Section 171.205, a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman unless the physician has determined, in accordance with this section, whether the woman's unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat.

(c) In making a determination under Subsection (b), the physician must use a test that is:

(1) consistent with the physician's good faith and reasonable understanding of standard medical practice; and

(2) appropriate for the estimated gestational age of the unborn child and the condition of the pregnant woman and her pregnancy.

Any specific requirements for methods fall outside the scope of the legislation and within any medical licensing boards of medical associations.

10. How far into pregnancy does the abortion ban take effect?

Based upon the definitions in the new Health and Safety Code Sec. 171.201, there is no specific time period, as the ban is based upon the ability to detect a fetal heartbeat, using “standard medical practice.”  From subsection 1:

“Fetal heartbeat” specifically means cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.

Even though the term used is “fetal heartbeat,” the scope of the law includes embryos, based on subsection 7:

"Unborn child" means a human fetus or embryo in any stage of gestation from fertilization until birth.

The actual method of detecting the heartbeat of the embryo or fetus relies on the discretion of the one conducting the test.

Johns Hopkins Medicine states that a transvaginal ultrasound can detect the heartbeat by 5-6 weeks, and an abdominal ultrasound can detect one by 7-8 weeks.  These are just estimates that can depend on a number of circumstances, like quality of equipment and training of the individual.

Sec. 171.203 requires a physician to record the method of detecting the fetal heartbeat and the estimated gestational age.  Presumably, this would reduce purposeful attempts of deceit to circumvent the law.

11. Did the Texas legislature increase funding to social programs within the Texas Heartbeat Act?

Though not part of the same legislation, the state’s budget increased several social programs for the year.

The “Alternatives to Abortion” program under the Texas Health and Human Services has seen a budget increase every two years since its inception. For the 2022-2023 biennial budget earlier this year, there was a 25% increase from $80 million to $100 million.  This program addresses financial and material needs of pregnant women and parents.  The website lists examples of services:

  • Counseling, mentoring, educational information and classes on pregnancy, parenting, adoption, life skills and employment readiness.
  • Material assistance, such as car seats, clothing, diapers and formula.
  • Care coordination through referrals to government assistance programs and other social services programs.
  • Call center for information and appointment scheduling.
  • Housing and support services through maternity homes.

Additionally, the budget increased the following:

  • $135.5 million for various mental health programs
  • $10.2 million for women’s health programs
  • $123.5 million for rural hospitals
  • $164.2 million relating to foster care
  • $57.6 million for combatting human trafficking
Photo by Matt Walsh from Unsplash


Monday, September 27, 2021

Students for Life launches "Abortion-Free Cities" Campaign

In a webcast last week, Students for Life of America (SFLA) introduced its Campaign for Abortion-Free Cities, representing a new phase in its advocacy. While SFLA has traditionally focused on college campuses, and will continue to do so, this new project reaches the broader community. Its goals are threefold: connect those in crisis with non-violent alternatives to abortion; change minds, especially the minds of those most targeted by the abortion industry; and push people who lean pro-life and should be with us to actively oppose abortion. 

The scope of the campaign is impressive, and you should really watch the whole announcement, but the aspect that stood out most to me is the door-knocking outreach. Why wait until there's an election to speak directly with your neighbors? Going door-to-door, educating people about what's happening at their local abortion businesses (including health code violations), and contrasting that with the free resources available from pro-life pregnancy resource centers, is a great way to reach people who would rather avoid the unpleasantry of a widespread human rights violation. SFLA has conducted pre-campaign surveys and conversations to tailor the door-to-door talking points for each community; the approach in a city that already leans pro-life (like Phoenix) will differ from that in life-hostile territory (like Denver).

Additional facets of the campaign include sidewalk outreach in partnership with Sidewalk Advocates for Life and Reprotection, faith group outreach in partnership with Embrace Grace, and cutting-edge digital outreach in partnership with Human Coalition. Partnership in general is a major theme; as SFLA President Kristan Hawkins rightly pointed out, no one group can end abortion alone. 

The campaign has begun in 20 cities: Tacoma, Portland, (OR), Sacramento, Phoenix, Denver, Omaha, Dallas, the Twin Cities, Fairview Heights, IL/St. Louis, MO, Chicago, Jackson (MS), Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Rochester, Middletown, Allentown, Richmond, Port St. Lucie, and — last but certainly not least — my hometown of Naples, FL! SFLA is eager to expand to more cities. You can apply to add your community here, and abundant resources are available to help you get started. 

This push could not come at a more urgent time. The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the Dobbs (15-week) case for December 1st, which we hope will open new doors for legislation to protect babies in the womb. We must be prepared for the inevitable pro-abortion backlash — and do everything we can publicize the assistance available for pregnant mothers in need, so no one ever feels that abortion is her only choice.