The State of Texas is currently facing lawsuits over some of its abortion laws. Those that have been challenged include House Bill 2, which restricts access to abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and requires abortion clinics to maintain the same medical facilities as hospitals. The state is also being sued over the Fetal Burial Law, which requires clinics to bury remains from abortions and miscarriages.
To defend these laws, the Texas attorney general has paid anti-abortion advocates $500,000 to serve as expert witnesses in federal court. But the state has gotten very little bang for those taxpayer bucks, according to an analysis by The Houston Chronicle’s Alejandra Matos.
Matos says it isn’t abnormal for both sides of the abortion debate to use expert witnesses. But Paxton’s picks show up consistently in abortion cases, and they are usually marked by vehement anti-abortion views.
“They often aren’t medical doctors,” Matos says. “They’re ethicists, or lawyers, and they’re people who have very strong personal views and have voiced them in the public.”
While Matos notes that bias is likely to arise from testimony on both sides, what sets the attorney general’s experts apart is the testimony they give. Matos says that the anti-abortion experts are offering mostly giving their opinion as testimony, rather than scientific expertise.
“On seven of the experts we know for sure that they completely disregarded or gave extremely little weight to their testimony,” Matos says. “There was one expert, a philosopher, who was talking about the benefits of burying fetal remains, and Judge [Sam] Sparks stopped him in the middle and said, ‘look, this is a philosopher, this isn’t going to fly in my court.’”
This approach has not helped the attorney general, as he defends the state in court. Usually, much of this testimony is not taken into consideration when the case is decided. Matos reached out to the attorney general’s office and found that his staff is confident in its choices, saying that their experts are highly qualified and that abortion-rights-supporting experts are biased.
Written by Kevin Wheeler.