Some abortion foes question tactical wisdom of new Texas ban

Sep 14, 2021, 8:26 PM | Updated: Sep 15, 2021, 4:32 pm
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 file photo, Barbie H. leads a protest against the six-week ...

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 file photo, Barbie H. leads a protest against the six-week abortion ban at the Capitol in Austin, Texas. Dozens of people protested the abortion restriction law that went into effect Wednesday. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

The new Texas law that bans most abortions in the state has been welcomed by many of the religious leaders who help bolster the anti-abortion movement. Yet some abortion opponents in U.S. religious circles are wary of the law and questioning the movement’s current direction.

The wariness relates in part to the law’s most novel feature, which some critics view as an invitation to vigilantes: It provides no enforcement role for public officials and instead authorizes private citizens to sue anyone they deem to be assisting in an abortion, with the prospect of gaining $10,000 in the process.

The law “has serious downsides” and conveys that anti-abortion activists are willing to engage in “desperate and extremist tactics,” said Charles Camosy, an associate professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University who favors tougher nationwide restrictions on abortion.

“Because it appears to be playing legal games to get around rulings of federal courts, the law feeds the false narrative that pro-lifers don’t have public opinion on our side,” Camosy, a Catholic, said via email.

The law, Senate Bill 8, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks. It was assailed in a recent column in the National Catholic Reporter, an independent online news outlet, by one of its senior reporters, Michael Sean Winters.

“I fear greatly that the premature implementation of this truly strange law will turn out to be the historic beginning of a backlash against the pro-life movement for which it is ill-prepared,” Winters wrote.

He said the law’s provisions encourage “a kind of vigilante justice we had all thought consigned to old Western movies” and warned that its implementation would likely prompt some women to resort to illegal and potentially risky abortions.

“I am as pro-life as pro-life can be, but I detest the pro-life movement, for its short-sightedness, for its moral myopia, for its viciousness,” Winters wrote. “The pro-choice movement is now energized in a way it has not been for years.”

Amid the furor over SB 8, the Catholic bishop of Lexington, Kentucky, John Stowe, issued a broader critique of some elements of the anti-abortion movement, suggesting they pursued their cause while neglecting other pressing social issues.

“Those who vehemently fight legal abortion but are uninterested in providing basic healthcare for pregnant mothers or needy children, who are unconcerned about refugee children or those lacking quality education with no hope of escaping poverty cannot really claim to respect life,” Stowe tweeted.

Among staunch supporters of the Texas law, there’s a degree of disdain for abortion opponents who depict the measure as a strategic mistake.

“The pro-lifers who oppose Texas SB 8 play to lose — or rather they play the part of controlled opposition, paying lip service to the unborn, but not actually acting like real lives are at stake every single day,” said Chad Pecknold, associate professor of theology at The Catholic University of America.

“Whatever happens to Texas SB 8, it will long be remembered as the moment when pro-lifers started playing to win,” Pecknold added via email.

Implementation of the law has elated many top faith leaders in Texas and other states who’ve been campaigning against abortion over the years, including many of John Stowe’s fellow bishops.

“We celebrate every life saved by this legislation,” said the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, which represents the 20 bishops serving the state.

“Abortion does not help women,” the bishops said. “Abortion is never the answer. It is always the violent taking of innocent human life.”

The statement was lauded by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Naumann acknowledged that the law has sparked controversy but criticized President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “responding with radical pledges” to block it and other tough anti-abortion measures.

Like Naumann, some prominent Southern Baptist pastors in Texas welcomed the law while noting its contentious aspects

“I do believe it’s legitimate to ask if we really want third parties to be able to financially profit from reporting the crimes of others,” said the Rev. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Dallas megachurch.

“Overall,” Jeffress said via email, “I’m very supportive of and grateful for this strong affirmation of the value of life by our Texas lawmakers.”

Phillip Bethancourt, formerly a senior public policy official with the Southern Baptist Convention and now lead pastor of Central Church in College Station, Texas, noted that there’s debate about whether the law “is ultimately good or bad.”

“But there’s one community that will be universally thankful for it: those pre-born children for whom this law will mean life instead of death,” he said via email. “We need to see more legislation and not less around the country that does everything it can to protect life.”

Another Baptist pastor, John Elkins of Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Brazoria, Texas, said he welcomes the law while wishing it would ban abortion altogether. He hopes congregation members who share his outlook will find ways to assist unwed mothers in their community.

Among the vocal supporters of SB 8 is Marjorie Dannenfelser, a Catholic who heads the Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent national anti-abortion group.

“The goal of the pro-life movement has always been to make abortion illegal and unthinkable,” she wrote in a column Wednesday in National Review. “Texans are doing just that, in defiance of the undemocratic stifling of debate wrought by the Supreme Court years ago.”

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said her organization supports “any legal strategy that would protect unborn babies.”

“Too many state attorneys general fail to defend protective laws, or judges strike them down when they do,” said Tobias, who belongs to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. “The Texas approach is novel and deserves its day in court using established legal procedures.”

Michael New, an abortion opponent who teaches social research at Catholic University, called the law “unconventional” and predicted it would face multiple legal challenges. Already, it has been targeted by lawsuits from abortion providers and from the U.S. Justice Department.

Nonetheless, New said he was pleased that SB 8 has taken effect.

“Pro-lifers have identified a strategy that, at least in the short term, has succeeded in providing legal protection to thousands of unborn children,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, SB 8 has been assailed by clergy from faith groups that support abortion rights. Among the plaintiffs in a July suit challenging the law is the Rev. Daniel Kanter, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Dallas and a past chair of Planned Parenthood’s Clergy Advocacy Board.

The Jewish Council of Public Affairs, which represents more than 140 national and local Jewish organizations, condemned SB 8 and other anti-abortion restrictions as “dangerous measures” that should be thwarted by federal legislation.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Over 2,000 migrants march out of southern Mexico city

TAPACHULA, Mexico (AP) — Over 2,000 migrants, mainly Central Americans, began walking out of a city in southern Mexico on Saturday where they have essentially been trapped. The migrants walked along a highway leading west and north toward the U.S. border, and pushed past a line of state police who were trying to stop them. […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Uzbek president who has eased restrictions heads to new term

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) — Uzbekistan’s president, who has relaxed many of the policies of his dictatorial predecessor but has made little effort at political reform, is expected to win a new term by a landslide against weak competition in an election Sunday. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who took office in 2016 upon the death of Islam Karimov, […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Jan. 30, 1986, file photo, actor Brandon Lee, son of the late martial arts expert an...
Associated Press

States mostly defer to union guidance for on-set gun safety

Safety standards developed by film studios and labor unions are the primary protection for actors and film crews when a scene calls for using prop guns. The industry-wide guidance is clear: “Blanks can kill. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded.” Shootings nevertheless have killed and injured people while cameras rolled, including the cinematographer […]
1 day ago
Flowers and candles are placed at the scene of an attack on the Stortorvet in Kongsberg, Norway, Th...
Associated Press

Norway intel agency: Kongsberg-type attack will happen again

HELSINKI (AP) — Norway’s domestic intelligence agency says that such attacks as the one in the town of Kongsberg earlier this month are highly difficult to anticipate and prevent, and are likely to happen again in an open society such as Norway. “This type of attack performed by a person on an impulse with simple […]
1 day ago
Justin Paetow, center, a tin shop worker at Bath Iron Works, takes part in a demonstration against ...
Associated Press

Vaccine mandates create conflict with defiant workers

BATH, Maine (AP) — Josh “Chevy” Chevalier is a third-generation shipbuilder who hasn’t missed a day of work during the pandemic in his job as a welder constructing Navy warships on the Maine coast. But he’s ready to walk away from his job because of an impending mandate from President Joe Biden that federal contractors […]
1 day ago
Lava flows from a volcano destroying houses at La Laguna neighbourhood on the Canary island of La P...
Associated Press

Spain pledges quicker help for La Palma volcano damage

SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA, Canary Islands (AP) — Spain’s prime minister announced Saturday that his government will speed up already promised aid to help the thousands of residents on La Palma island whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by a protracted volcanic eruption. On his fifth visit since the Atlantic island was shaken […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Some abortion foes question tactical wisdom of new Texas ban