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Director Of Texas Alliance For Life Discusses The State's New Abortion Law


This has been one of the most consequential weeks in decades for abortion rights in America. The Supreme Court's decision not to intervene in a Texas law banning most abortions suddenly imposed the most stringent limits in the U.S. on the procedure. We spoke yesterday with an abortion rights advocate in Texas, and we're joined now by Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life.

Thanks for being here.

JOE POJMAN: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Some people have described the Supreme Court's action this week as a de facto reversal of Roe v. Wade. Is that how you see it?

POJMAN: Not at all. I think this is very preliminary. I think the Supreme Court is just allowing the law to stay in effect for a matter of days or perhaps weeks while those procedural issues are being sorted out by the lower court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

SHAPIRO: We spoke yesterday, as I mentioned, with an abortion rights advocate in Texas, Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman's Health, and I'd like to play you part of the exchange she had with my co-host, Mary Louise Kelly. Mary Louise asked whether links to resources on the Whole Woman's Health website could be grounds for a lawsuit, and here's what Miller said.

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: We understand that some of that might be framed as aiding and abetting. I think it's interesting they're already trying to criminalize that, even the language they're using. But all of that information is available in the public domain.

SHAPIRO: From where you sit, Joe Pojman, do you view that as a violation of the law?

POJMAN: Probably not. It's not so clear how that's going to shake out. And again, a lot has to be determined by the courts. But if they are referring for helping someone get an abortion in Texas, that's what the law is intended to address. Out of state, it's not so clear.

SHAPIRO: The specific enforcement mechanism of the law is very unusual. People who successfully bring lawsuits get $10,000 and their attorney fees covered, and abortion rights advocates say this will create an aggressive industry of anti-abortion bounty hunters. Is that your intention?

POJMAN: The - I think the Legislature in Texas was very frustrated because similar laws that amount to a ban on abortion before the baby's viable - in other words, can live outside the womb if born alive - those have always been blocked by the federal and state courts. The Legislature was looking for a new approach. And while many state laws do have civil liability to some extent - typically, the grandparents or the mother or father could sue - this is a whole new level. No one's tried anything like this. So we're going to have to see how the courts handle it.

SHAPIRO: Well, that explains why you would allow individuals to bring lawsuits - it helps to avoid the law being overturned by the courts. But it doesn't explain the $10,000 reward for successful cases. And these cases can be brought by people outside of Texas. This is what leads people to say it's going to create an industry of bounty hunters. Do you support that provision?

POJMAN: Our goal and the goal in the state of Texas is to protect as many unborn babies from what we think as the tragedy of abortion. So we're going to have to see how this shakes out.

SHAPIRO: I mean, do you think that there will be what people have described as bounty hunters, and do you think that's a good thing?

POJMAN: The goal of the bill is to protect babies from abortion, and hopefully there will just be universal compliance, and there won't be any lawsuits have to be filed at that point.

SHAPIRO: You say hopefully there will be universal compliance, but already there is a website called Pro Life Whistleblowers encouraging people to send in anonymous tips. Can you tell how many of these are in good faith and how many come from your opponents who have been telling people to flood the site with bad information?

POJMAN: Yeah, I have no information. You know, and just honestly, our organization has not gotten involved in any of the enforcement challenges. So we're not going to be involved in that type of litigation.

SHAPIRO: Even some abortion rights opponents have expressed concern that this law does not include any exceptions for rape or incest. Was that something that your group debated? Tell us about the reasons for it.

POJMAN: Oh, we have supported protection for the unborn child, even if that child is created in the act of rape. Rape is a terrible crime. It's an assault against the woman or - same for incest. But we think the best thing for all parties involved, including the unborn child and the mother, is for the state of Texas and any number of organizations to encourage her to give birth to that child; keep the child herself if she wishes or place that child for adoption.

SHAPIRO: I just want to clarify - you believe that asking a woman who has experienced rape or incest to carry the pregnancy to term is not only in the best interests of the child but also the best interests of the mother?

POJMAN: We really do. And women who have been involved in our organization, who have been impregnated as rape, have given birth to the child, sometimes placed for adoption, sometimes keeping the child for themselves, and they really believe that was the best option for themselves, as well as the unborn child. And we really agree with that.

SHAPIRO: I hear your hesitation about whether this is likely to stand, and you're saying you still need to let the courts work it out, and you're being cautious. Abortion rights groups say, look; this is the most conservative Supreme Court in more than a generation. It's only a matter of time until they overturn Roe v. Wade, and they don't look likely to strike down this Texas law, either. Is that how you see it?

POJMAN: Our goal is that the Supreme Court will change what we consider to be the terrible Roe v. Wade precedent that ties the hands of the state legislatures. Our goal is that unborn children in Texas and throughout the country will someday be protected from abortion up to the moment of conception, fertilization. When that happens, we have hope and prayed for decades. We will have to see how the Supreme Court handles this in the coming term.

SHAPIRO: Joe Pojman is executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life.

Thank you very much.

POJMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.