Texas AG Argues That Abortion Crackdown 'Stimulates' Interstate Travel

Ken Paxton appeared to tout forced travel for abortions in response to a Justice Department claim that it raises troubling interstate commerce issues.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued in a court filing this week that forcing people to travel across state lines to get abortions that are now illegal in Texas is “stimulating” interstate travel and not hurting commerce.

The argument was filed in response to a lawsuit by the Biden administration earlier this month attacking the draconian new law banning abortions after six weeks, citing its “open defiance of the Constitution” regarding the right to an abortion.

The Department of Justice also argued that the federal government has standing in the case to protect interstate commerce from a problematic clash of laws as Texans are forced to travel out of state for abortions. The statute “appears to apply to [bank] monetary transfers” and may threaten health insurance payments to Texas residents to cover an abortion, according to the Justice Department’s suit.

Before the law was enacted, most people could obtain an abortion at a clinic “within 24 miles round trip from their home; now they will have to travel 496 miles round trip on average to obtain an out-of-state abortion,” the lawsuit stated.

Paxton presented the forced travel as a good thing, He cited news reports in his Wednesday filing of women driving hundreds of miles to Oklahoma and Kansas to seek abortions as proof that the law wasn’t interfering with interstate commerce.

The federal government doesn’t “cite any actual evidence that the Texas Heartbeat Act burdens interstate commerce,” Paxton argued in the filing in federal court in Austin. “What evidence that does exist in the record suggests that, if anything, the Act is stimulating rather than obstructing interstate travel.

Paxton is asking U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman to dismiss the Justice Department suit. Pitman is expected to hear oral arguments on Friday and could rule on the Justice Department’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law then.

Paxton’s argument was slammed by critics of the harsh law, which bans abortions before most people even know they’re pregnant. Close to 90% of abortions in Texas were obtained after six weeks before the law was passed.

The state is attempting to dodge responsibility for the law by putting enforcement into the hands of vigilantes anywhere in the nation who are rewarded with bounties of $10,000 if they successfully sue someone who “aids and abets” an illegal abortion in Texas.

“As thousands of pregnant Texans seeking essential, time-sensitive medical care are forced to flee the state in desperation, Texas is now claiming its blatantly unconstitutional abortion ban has ‘stimulated’ interstate travel,” ACLU staff attorney Julia Kaye said in a statement to Bloomberg. “It is appalling that Texas is trying to capitalize on the catastrophe anti-abortion politicians created.”