From the Sept. 30 Catholic World Report interview of Maria McFadden Maffucci, editor of Human Life Review:
…CWR: How do you regard the Texas Heartbeat Act?
Maffucci: Not speaking for the Review, which does not take any editorial positions per se on debates within the pro-life movement, I personally have conflicting views about the Texas Heartbeat Act. On the one hand, I am absolutely grateful that the humanity of unborn children in Texas is recognized by law, and that, so far at least, babies’ lives are being saved every day! That cannot be overstated. I also celebrate the states’ rights aspect of it — something the Roe vs. Wade decision, and so many other court decisions, have unjustly preempted.
On the other hand, I worry that, as a broad strategy, Americans are not ready for this and we may lose support for the discussion I have been hoping would take place in advance of the Dobbs vs. Jackson Supreme Court case. I am hoping for a broad discussion about the rights of the unborn at 15 weeks—the point at which the Mississippi law would protect—and the artificial construct of fetal “viability.” It is a fact that most Americans are uncomfortable with abortions after the first trimester, and so there ought to be a groundswell of agreement if people are properly educated about what Roe actually allows. I am hoping the mushy middle can be persuaded — and I fear that the brouhaha and misinformation about the Texas law may foil that opportunity.
In the Review’s pages, we have had many debates among pro-lifers, between those who support an incremental approach, and those who insist on a more uncompromising “no exceptions” approach. I can see both sides, though I am always in favor of whatever legislation can save actual lives. After all, lives are saved one at a time, so we ought to support any legislation that accomplishes that.
The current situation, however, is rather confusing. Is the Texas law incremental? Yes, it’s saving actual lives, now, so it ought to be supported. But if it hurts the movement as a whole — ultimately saving fewer lives in the long run, is support for the bill support for the “no exceptions” side? I honestly don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball for what the Texas bill might cause in the way of unintended consequences. I do believe that the legal challenge that the federal government has mounted against it is not persuasive.
I must say that I find the nature of the bill concerning—that private citizens can report abortions and sue providers. Of course, I can admire it as a crafty legal ploy to get around the court injunctions that stymie so many state efforts to curb abortion, but I am also wary of the Act giving great press and emotional weaponry to the enemies of life. Yes, women themselves cannot be prosecuted, and any citizen who wishes to sue against an illegal abortion must be prepared to initiate a criminal suit and lay out the initial legal costs for such a suit. Still, if it is true that someone can be sued for driving a woman to an abortion clinic, even if they didn’t know they were doing so, that seems unjust and also precisely the sort of tactic that could be used against prolifers in any state hostile to our pro-life cause.
So, again, I am ambivalent about the Texas Heartbeat Act.
CWR: How do you think this will affect Dobbs vs. Jackson? Do you see this as a domino in any foreseeable way?
Maffucci: Not necessarily: the Supreme Court’s decision not to halt the Texas law was based on the nature of the reporting in the law, so it doesn’t really give us a sign about Dobbs. And the fact that Justice Roberts’ dissent from the Court’s decision does not augur well….