Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, defended his state’s law banning all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected by claiming that tech billionaire and Tesla CEO Elon Musk “likes the social policies in the state of Texas.”
Musk’s companies — Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company — remain headquartered in California, but the tech mogul announced last year that he moved to Texas.
Additionally, both Tesla and SpaceX have major operations in The Lone Star State that are growing rapidly.
Abbott said Thursday in an interview with CNBC that it’s not just Texas’ low-tax and relatively deregulated business environment that’s drawing major companies, but also its social policies like the state’s anti-abortion law.
The law, which Abbott signed in May, went into effect on Wednesday after the US Supreme Court did not act on an emergency request by civil liberties groups to block it. The new law, which bans all abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, does not make exceptions for rape or incest survivors.
The law also includes unique authority for private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions — such as driving a woman to a clinic — for at least $10,000, if successful.
Abbott insisted on Thursday that the law is appealing to many employers and Americans.
“People vote with their feet and this is not slowing down businesses coming to the state of Texas. In fact, it is accelerating the process of businesses coming to Texas,” he added, noting that they’re leaving the “very liberal state of California.”
“Elon Musk, who I talk to frequently, Elon had to get out of California because in part of the social policies in California. And Elon consistently tells me that he likes the social policies in the state of Texas,” the governor added.
Musk later responded on Twitter, saying, “In general, I believe government should rarely impose its will upon the people, and, when doing so, should aspire to maximize their cumulative happiness.
“That said, I would prefer to stay out of politics,” he added.
In the past, Musk has not avoided politics. In early 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Musk called government stay-at-home orders “fascist” during a shocking rant on Tesla’s first-quarter 2020 earnings call.
“It’s breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why they came to America or built this country,” Musk said at the time. “What the f–k? Excuse me. Outrage.”
Tesla then sued Alameda County in California, home to the electric car maker’s huge Fremont factory, asserting that the county’s local health orders were at odds with state policy. The company later withdrew the suit.
Last year, Musk donated a total of $8,400 to three anti-abortion Republican lawmakers, public records show. He also donated a total of $11,200 to four Democratic lawmakers who support abortion rights in 2020, records show.
The Texas law is the most restrictive abortion measure in the nation and could pave the way for the overruling of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled not to block the law. Chief Justice John Rober and the court’s three liberal members all dissented, each filing their own opinions.
“The court’s order is stunning,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
“The court has rewarded the state’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state’s own creation,” Sotomayor wrote.
“The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law,” she said.
Chief Justice Roberts said in his opinion that he would have blocked the law while appeals court challenges moved forward.
The Supreme Court’s decision has stoked concerns among civil liberty and women’s rights groups as the Supreme Court prepares this fall to take on a separate case in which they’ll decide whether or not to overrule Roe v. Wade.
Other states under Republican control, seeing Texas’ successful challenge, may follow suit.
Republican Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said Thursday Florida would likely join other states in passing anti-abortion legislation following the Supreme Court’s decision.
“When the Supreme Court goes out and makes a decision like this, it clearly is going to send a signal to all the states that are interested in banning abortions or making it more restrictive to have an abortion in their state, it’s certainly going to make us take a look at those issues,” Simpson said.