Pro-Life Leader: Unfortunate that Pro-Life Groups are at Odds

As lawmakers prepare to convene for the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature – a session that could once again see intense debates over abortion – at least one prominent anti-abortion leader says it’s unfortunate that there’s a growing rift between the state’s biggest pro-life groups.

Texas Right to Life is by itself on one side of that schism and Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Coalition for Life are on the other. These groups have different boards, different leadership, and often support different political candidates in Republican primaries. This past year saw some of the nastiest GOP primaries in recent memory, thanks in large part to the vicious nature in which Texas Right to Life, in my opinion, often mischaracterized the voting records of certain lawmakers. The group’s efforts have had mixed results.

“The abortion people, who don’t have a whole lot to brag about for progress, not in Texas; but longer term, if we’re not working together, that provides opportunity for them,” said Joe Pojman, the longtime executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. He has become quite frustrated with the fact that not all the big anti-abortion groups are on the same page, which is confounding to many observers of Texas politics because the core values of these groups are, at least in theory, nearly identical. The primary stated goal of each of these groups is to greatly reduce the number of abortions and get rid of it if at all possible. So, it’s difficult to understand how they could be so out of sync when it comes to strategy and which candidates to support in various political races.

Pojman has spoken out forcefully in recent days about what he says are falsehoods that have been promoted by supposedly pro-life opponents of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. While Pojman went into great detail to dispel the myths being promoted to discredit Straus, the simple fact of the matter is that strictest anti-abortion legislation in the United States was passed by the Texas House with Straus as the presiding officer. There is a robust debate about whether Texas should have passed that legislation – and that is healthy – but one simple fact that has to be accepted by all sides before the honest debate can begin is that Straus was at the helm when these measures became law.

I wanted to explore further why there is so much division among the state’s largest anti-abortion groups, so I went to visit with Pojman in his office in Austin. Pojman pointed primarily to the heated debate in 2013 among Texas lawmakers over end-of-life care. Pojman said certain groups, primarily Texas Right to Life, have exploited the complexity and emotional nature of the issue to badly mischaracterize the reforms that were proposed by Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville. The bill he proposed ultimately failed, by the way.

“They (Texas Right to Life) said it was a bill to increase euthanasia in Texas, which is just plain wrong. I don’t think that can be defended with straight face,” Pojman said. “We have this obligation to mothers, unborn babies, and in this case, vulnerable patients, to get together at the table and decide on a compromised bill that we can take to the legislature,” he said. “To imagine that a group would attack him (Deuell) as not being pro-life over an issue that was, I think, not a bona fide issue, saying he supported euthanasia for vulnerable patients? That in itself is not correct. This extremely pro-life and effective legislator, it really broke my heart to see another pro-life group attack him during his primary election.”

“It’s a shame that that bill is rather complicated and difficult to explain in just a few short soundbites, and it really can’t, so that I think has left room for misinformation to get out on a large scale,” Pojman said. “I’ve got to think that the big winners in this controversy are the abortion advocates because the pro-life groups are spending an enormous amount of time and resources fighting amongst ourselves.”

Check out the first part of my discussion with Pojman here:

Not only was Sen. Deuell assailed by Texas Right to Life in much the same way that Speaker Straus is now under attack by that group and others, but Pojman was personally taken to task by the operators of this anonymous website. As they put it, Pojman is “being used by establishment powers to cover the tracks of politicians who are weak on life. Even worse, Joe has empowered the healthcare lobby and hospitals to end the life of a patient without family permission.”

In my mind, it’s pretty telling that the attacks on Pojman are being made anonymously. When pro-choice activists attack him as being an anti-abortion zealot, at least those activists don’t lob their bombs from the shadows. In part two of our conversation, Pojman and I explore why he’s being attacked following last year’s nasty primaries and in advance of the vote for Texas House Speaker set for Tuesday.


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