Despite Texas Ban on Abortion, Pro-Life Advocates See More Work to Do in Post-Roe World
By Abby L. Johnson
Texas Alliance for Life and thousands of supporters marched Saturday to the Texas Capitol, calling for more measures to protect Texas’ nearly all-encompassing ban on abortions.
Texans from across the state began to march from the corner of 14th and Brazos street toward the Capitol amid honking horns and drivers leaning out their windows to hold up a middle finger.
The vitriol was in response to the pro-life signs held high and proud. Slogans like “A life is a life, no matter how small” dotted the sidewalks, moving in slow motion toward the rally on the Capitol grounds held each year to mark the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade that established a right to abortion. Despite the court’s 2022 ruling that effectively overturned Roe and allowed states to put new restrictions on abortion, Saturday’s protesters said more needs to be done to end abortion.
“We want to see abortion completely and totally abolished. Like now, not taking steps,” said Kent McElroy, a member of Love of Truth Ministries who said he’s been part of the pro-life movement since he encountered a group called Women Exploited by Abortion in 1984.
On Saturday he wore a gray T-shirt that read, “Abortion Abolitionist.”
“The 14th (Amendment) was about slaves and giving them equal protection under the law,” McElroy said. “Well, we’re wanting to have the 14th Amendment give the unborn baby equal protection under the law.”
At Saturday’s rally, a pile of diapers to be distributed to Texas pregnancy crisis centers — an organizer put the donated diaper tally at 19,000 — stood as a reminder to the lives they hoped to protect.
The Texas Legislature passed its Heartbeat Act in 2021, banning all abortion after fetal heartbeat could be detected, usually at about six weeks of pregnancy. The law also opened the door for private citizens to sue physicians or other individuals who “aid and abet” a post-heartbeat abortion.
Current Texas anti-abortion laws, enacted after the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, say that doctors could face $100,000 in fines or life in prison for performing abortions. The law does have an exception to save the life of the mother or to prevent “substantial impairment of major bodily function.”
Amy O’Donnell, communications director for Texas Alliance for Life, said that in the last Texas legislative session, the organization worked to keep exceptions from being added to laws restricting access to abortion.
“What we consider weakening exceptions are exceptions for cases of disability diagnoses or potentially life limiting diagnoses, as well as for children conceived in rape,” O’Donnell said. “We believe that babies in those circumstances are valuable and worthy of protection. And in those cases, the families and the women need support, but abortion is not the answer.”
She said the strength of the pro-life movement in the Legislature had kept bills from weakening Texas’ anti-abortion laws from even being heard in committees. “At this point, we’re really focused on elections and making sure that we keep pro-life candidates in office,” she added.
Saturday’s rally came as national attention focused on the case of Dallas woman Kate Cox, who has sued for the right to terminate her non-viable pregnancy. Cox is a mother of two whose expected third child was diagnosed with trisomy-18 and who faced a risk to her life and potentially losing her fertility. Last week, the Biden administration invited Cox to attend the State of the Union Address in March.
“Her story is incredibly powerful, devastating, and it speaks to the moment that we are in now,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. “It is important for Americans to hear the horror stories that we’re hearing from women of their experiences across the country.”
On Jan. 16, attorneys Steve and Amy Bresnen filed a petition to the Texas Medical Board asking for its clarification on medical exceptions for abortion for women like Cox.
O’Donnell acknowledged that “there are some physicians that we have heard are confused. And so it is the responsibility of the Texas Medical Board to provide clarification, to clear up any confusion, so that the doctors know that the laws allow them to intervene.”
But she said her group has documented 57 abortions in Texas since Roe was overturned and “not one doctor has been prosecuted or disciplined.”
A pro-life protester named Garrett M., who asked to use only his last initial, drove with his wife and five children from San Antonio to attend. He brought a handmade sign that reads “Don’t Murder Sick Babies,” which he said was inspired by Kate Cox’s case.
“Of course, I’m very sympathetic and everyone should be sympathetic to parents that have sick children either prenatally or after birth,” he said. “But we don’t believe that that justifies destroying innocent human life just because they are sick.”
Star Zamorano, a 24-year-old from Brownsville, drove six hours to attend the rally and says the future of the pro-life movement lies in the hands of the next generation.
“I would like to see more young ones be more involved within the pro-life movement,” she said. “I think that’s what we need most of all.”
Aaron Garcia, who identified himself as a Democrat from San Antonio, believes that aspects of the pro-life movement are consistent with Democratic principles.
“I came out here because I really just wanted to kind of show that there is a softer, more human side to the pro-life movement,” he said. “I know that it can come off as a little churchy and rough around the edges. But it’s not all that. And people who oppose abortion aren’t just doing it because they hate women or want to control people’s lives. They do it out of an abundance of care rather than malice.”
One longtime attendee, Jerry (who preferred not to share his last name), has been coming to the Rally for Life for the last decade or so. He noted that there was a smaller crowd than he expected to see.
“People are under the misguided conception that abortion’s over Texas, and it’s not.” For Jerry, the work left to do is to “get rid of the abortion pill.”