The State of Texas has spent nearly $650,000 in taxpayer money underwriting state efforts to roll back abortion access over the past two years, according to public records obtained by Rewire.
That’s the amount of money that the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) spent litigating three controversial state laws in 2012 and 2013, according to a breakdown of staff salary and travel expenses provided by the OAG. The breakdown includes a separate item simply called “abortion topic related,” which cost taxpayers just over $100,000 in the same period of time.
The total—$648,340.13, to be precise—represents another hefty taxpayer contribution to some states’ push against abortion access.
Abortion litigation has reportedly cost the taxpayers of Kansas $913,000; Idaho’s coffers have been emptied to the tune of $811,000; and North Dakota has now spent more than $200,000 defending laws intended to limit access to abortion, according to records that state provided to Rewire.
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While taxpayers are footing the bill for these cases, many of the laws flow from groups whose political outlook is usually fiscally, as well as socially, conservative.
For instance, of the bills accrued by Texas, $120,000 arose from defending HB 2—the law that led to state Sen. Wendy Davis’ famous filibuster last summer—and which has since led to the shuttering of more than a quarter of Texas clinics that provide abortions, amongst other services, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project.
Portions of that law are based on model bills produced by Americans United for Life (AUL) according to Kristi Hamrick, an AUL spokesperson.
Hamrick said that several parts of the Texas law—the provisions relating to medical abortions, some definitions within the act, and other requirements relating to physician conduct—were based on AUL’s model bills.
“AUL provides model legislation to anyone who asks for it—media, legislators, etc,” Hamrick wrote in an email to Rewire. “AUL is very careful in determining whether legislation, as passed, is based on AUL’s models, depending on the content of the language.”
AUL says its strategy is to help state lawmakers pass deliberately unconstitutional laws, that directly conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. AUL hopes to provoke a constitutional challenge that will land before the Supreme Court, opening up the possibility that Roe will be overturned.
While AUL is tied to right-wing, free-market groups that typically decry public spending, its legal strategy is premised on the use of public subsidies, in the form of taxpayer dollars that states must spend to defend these deliberately unconstitutional laws.
Hamrick did not answer questions relating to AUL’s reliance on taxpayer funds to underwrite its legal strategy.
The total tally of how much taxpayers in all states have already spent defending anti-choice laws is unknown, but what’s clear is that the figure is likely to climb, with more states expected to consider new restrictions on abortion access this legislative session, and a profusion of litigation already underway.