Texas’ Legislature Prospectively Banned Abortion Yesterday

The bill passed by the Texas Senate won’t become law under Gov. Greg Abbott signs it, but of course he will. Then the bill won’t take effect until the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, which we think is coming eventually but probably not in the next round of decisions – the Supreme Court has had a couple of opportunities to make that jump and has chosen not to.

You could call this more of a statement, or perhaps virtue-signaling. But sometimes those are useful moves.

A statement from Texas Alliance for Life last night…

Today the Texas Senate gave final approval to the Human Life Protection Act, HB 1280 — one of Texas Alliance for Life’s top priorities — on an 19 to 12 vote. The House passed HB 1280 on an 81 to 61 vote on May 6. The bill now goes to Governor Greg Abbott who is expected to sign it into law.

The Human Life Protection Act is a complete ban on abortion, beginning at conception (fertilization), that goes into effect when and to the extent the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Texas joins 10 states who have passed similar measures.

Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) is the Senate sponsor of HB 1280, and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) is the House author. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the Human Life Protection Act one of his priority bills, assigning the low number SB 9 to the Senate bill, which was authored by Sen. Paxton.

HB 1280 is also supported by the State Republican Executive Committee and several other major pro-life organizations, including the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, Texans for Life Coalition, West Texans for Life, and others.

The passage of the Human Life Protection Act is especially significant in light of the recent announcement that the United States Supreme Court will consider the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in its next term. That case involves “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” Viability occurs as early as 22-23 weeks in pregnancy, meaning the State of Texas is currently prohibited from protecting tens of thousands of unborn babies from abortion every year who have substantial prenatal development. A decision in that case is expected in June 2022.

“We are extremely pleased at the passage of HB 1280. We commend Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dade Phelan and thank those Senate and House members who supported this landmark bill,” said Dr. Joe Pojman, Texas Alliance for Life’s executive director. “To whatever extent the Supreme Court allows states to protect unborn babies from abortion — whether at 15 weeks, six weeks, or at conception — the Human Life Protection Act will go into effect to the same extent.”

If you’re in the pro-life advocacy business it’s certainly a landmark bill. If it’s a landmark bill for other folks is a bit of a question.

Does it help to pass this bill now, rather than waiting until it’s possible to make real public policy by passing it? That’s also a bit of a question.

Let’s say the Dobbs case results in a complete reversal of Roe and Casey. If that happens you then have 11 states with laws on the books banning all abortions.

Immediately after that Supreme Court ruling is made public, Nancy Pelosi will introduce, and pass with lightning speed, and Chuck Schumer will similarly ram through in the Senate AND POSSIBLY KILL THE FILIBUSTER TO PASS, federal legislation making abortion legal and/or establishing a statutory right to have one.

And a Lisa Murkowski and/or Susan Collins would potentially cross the aisle not only to support the bill but maybe even to kill the filibuster for it. If you trust them not to, well…

We would mark this as a real possibility, and it would create a real possibility of tearing the country apart.


Now, does Texas passing SB 9 affect the likelihood that this happens? Probably not all that much, but as this is a big deal it might well create a heightened sense of urgency among Democrats on Capitol Hill to do something on abortion.

It’s probably better to sneak up on these people and then pass a bill, maybe even in a special session to be held immediately after the Supremes announce a Roe or Casey reversal.

Politically, the best result is probably to have control of the House and/or Senate when at some future time the Supreme Court changes direction. That’s about a year and a half away. Once it’s in place, it won’t matter whether Texas has this law on the books or rushes in with an abortion ban.

Regardless, though, SB 9 is a good example of what an activist conservative legislature can do in pursuit of a vision for its state. Texas certainly has that.



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