A Texas Bill Would Make Abortion Punishable by Death Penalty

Texas lawmakers are considering a bill, called the Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act or House Bill 896, that would ban all abortion in the state as well as charge women who have abortions with homicide, a crime punishable by death penalty in the state of Texas.

The bill was granted its first committee hearing in the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence earlier this week. The proposed legislation criminalizes abortions, giving no exceptions for rape or incest and blatantly violating the Roe v. Wade decision, which outlawed criminalizing abortion. In addition to making no exceptions, the act also directs authorities to ignore any conflicting federal laws. The bill has received backlash from both pro-choice and anti-abortion groups. “I am absolutely appalled by any proposal that would suggest prosecuting a woman for seeking an abortion or obtaining an abortion,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

“My bill simply accomplishes one goal,” said Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican state legislator who introduced the bill. “It brings equal treatment for unborn human beings under the law.”

However, Democrats on the committee have criticized the hypocrisy of the bill’s provisions. “I’m trying to reconcile in my head the arguments that I heard tonight about how essentially one is OK with subjecting a woman to the death penalty … to do to her the exact same thing that one is alleging she is doing to a child,” said Democratic Rep. Victoria Neave. With major backlash from both sides of the issue, the bill is unlikely to pass.

In fact, Republican Rep. Jeff Leach, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, said, “I cannot and will not support nor will I let come out of this committee any bill on [abortion] which targets the woman with either civil or criminal liability.”

While the bill is unlikely to pass, the proposed legislation is only one of a growing trend towards anti-abortion laws meant to attack Roe v. Wade. In 2019 alone, over 250 restrictive abortion bills have been introduced in state legislatures. Several states such as Kentucky and Mississippi have attempted to pass “heartbeat bills,” which would ban abortions as soon as the sixth week of pregnancy, before most women even know they are pregnant. Both states have already faced legal challenges, and a federal judge has blocked Kentucky’s law. Georgia and several other states are considering similar restrictive bills. Prior to 2019, only two states had enacted a six-week ban with both laws being struck down by the courts.

In addition, six states have also passed “trigger laws” that would automatically outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned and another eight states have introduced similar bills outlawing abortion. Despite these restrictions, a Pew Research survey shows that 69% of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned.

“We’re at a critical moment where abortion bans are flying through state legislatures,” said Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for Guttmacher. “Abortion opponents are emboldened to try all kinds of very extreme pieces of legislation.”


Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 4/3/19; Vox 4/11/19; NBC News 4/10/19; New York Times 4/10/19

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