It has been a rough couple of weeks for women’s rights in Texas. Earlier this month, SB8 or the “fetal heartbeat” entered into force, a new law that lowered the threshold for legal abortions to 6 weeks, mistakenly establishing the term.
With this, violating the previously established limit set by Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the country) the new limit would affect at least 85% of the abortions taking place in the state since many women don’t even know they are pregnant within the first six weeks. The new law also sets a new bounty hunter system for people to tell on women who terminate their pregnancies.
The new law has been surrounded by controversy. Protests all over Texas have taken place, and even some cities in the United States have moved in order to restrict trade and travel with Texas. But, why have Texas lawmakers decided to impose this new unconstitutional ban on abortion now? Who is behind the law?
One man stands out: Jonathan Mitchell. He has never had a big reputation in the anti-abortion movement, but he created and pushed the legal strategy that has perplexed judges and outraged pro-choice activists.
As he read the Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2016 knocking down significant sections of a Texas anti-abortion statute he helped create, Jonathan F. Mitchell became increasingly disturbed. He vowed that if he ever had the chance to help develop another anti-abortion law, it would survive a review at the Supreme Court. Five years later, he got his chance.
With President Trump’s ideological balance restored, the Supreme Court declined to halt a new Texas legislation that effectively outlaws abortion, perhaps signaling a turning point in the long-running debate over the practice. And it was Mr. Mitchell, an extremely religious man, as a New York Times investigation reported, who was the driving factor behind the law. The Supreme Court’s judgment did not consider the law’s legality, and it is certain that the legislation will face more substantive challenges.
“Jonathan could have given up, but instead it galvanized him and directly led to the more radical concepts we see” in the new Texas law, as it was stated by Adam Mortara, one of Texas most prominent conservative legal activists and one of Mr. Mitchell’s closest friends.
Jonathan Mitchell symbolizes a new wave of anti-abortion activists. One that abandoned the streets and the public forums. Rather than focusing on appointing anti-abortion judges to the courts, changing public opinion, or passing largely symbolic bills in state legislatures, he has spent the last seven years honing a largely under-the-radar strategy of drafting laws that make it much more difficult for the judicial system to overturn them, as it was proven recently with the review made by the Supreme Court of Texas restrictive abortion law. He made a statement regarding his latest work on the anti-abortion law:
“The political branches have been too willing to cede control of constitutional interpretation to the federal judiciary,” he said. “But there are ways to counter the judiciary’s constitutional pronouncements, and Texas has shown that the states need not adopt a posture of learned helplessness in response to questionable or unconstitutional court rulings.”