This summer, during a federal trial over Texas’ fetal burial law, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights set out to demonstrate the anti-abortion bias of the state’s final witness: an Austin OB-GYN named Mikeal Love. It wasn’t difficult. Love, who has delivered babies in the capital city for more than two decades, has a long track record of anti-abortion politics. At the trial, he acknowledged that he believes abortion should be illegal, except when the woman’s life is in danger. He said that it’s “a fact” that life begins at conception. He called a pregnant woman a “host organism” in arguing that her developing fetus is a separate entity. And to drive the point home, Love compared the relationship between an embryo or fetus and the woman to that of a foreign exchange student living with a host family. “For simplification,” he said.
The Austin doctor is a rare find among anti-abortion activists: a practicing OB-GYN outspoken in his opposition to abortion. He calls himself a “natural family planning specialist,” doesn’t prescribe birth control and won’t refer patients for abortion. For the last 20 years, Love has also been a regular at the Texas Capitol and in federal court, drafting and defending anti-abortion legislation.
“People use the argument, ‘It’s my body.’ Well, not really,” he told the Observer in August, sitting in the waiting room of his office in St. David’s Medical Center. Love, who wore teal scrubs, is short and bald, with dark eyebrows. Blocks spelling “LOVE” hang on the wall. “This baby really, truly is a separate individual, a unique human,” he said.
Love has testified in favor of a wide variety of anti-abortion bills, including legislation to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state Medicaid program and stringent new requirements that shut down more than half of the abortion clinics in the state. One of Love’s major accomplishments is helping to write, and then pass, the 2011 Texas law that requires a patient to undergo a sonogram by the doctor who will perform her abortion, then wait at least 24 hours before having the procedure. He says this was “finally a piece of legislation that gave people true informed consent.” Asked in court to confirm that he’s helped draft legislation regulating abortion procedures, Love responded, “Providing care for the woman, yes.”
Love is the state’s most frequent witness in court challenges to anti-abortion laws, according to the Houston Chronicle, which found that Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has paid expert witnesses $500,000 to testify in defense of a handful of recent laws. Of that, $46,000 has reportedly gone to Love for his testimony in four cases, a sum he declined to confirm, saying, “I don’t track that.”
Love began lobbying in 1999 at the encouragement of Joe Pojman, executive director of anti-abortion group Texas Alliance for Life. Love has “an inexhaustible energy when it comes to defending unborn babies,” Pojman said this spring. The two met through Pojman’s wife, who is Love’s patient. (“He caught all of my babies when they came out,” Pojman said, laughing.) They’ve worked together since — Pojman calls Love “around the clock” to discuss strategy; Love reaches out for lobbying tips.
In a keynote speech at a Texas Alliance for Life event in April, Love compared abortion policymaking to “sausage-making, smokehouses and horseshoeing.” He encouraged the audience to imagine the ultrasound bill as the sausage: “You want to put the right amount [of meat] in to get the job done, but not too much to blow the bill out so no one votes for it,” he said. The ultrasound requirement, in Love’s analogy, was the casing, but “deep buried inside was the waiting period of 24 hours.”
“We now have a bill that allows people to wait and think about what they’re going to do before they do something they regret later,” Love said.
Love doesn’t think Roe v. Wade will be overturned, as much as he’d like that to happen. But he believes the Constitution is on his side, despite courts ruling otherwise.
“We have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So why doesn’t that life have a right to its life, liberty, pursuit of happiness?” he said in August, referring to an embryo. “Why does somebody arbitrarily get to decide that that life doesn’t count? You don’t want somebody deciding your life doesn’t count. Do you?” He paused, waiting for my answer.