Lawmakers in Texas are considering a bill that would pave the way for women who undergo abortions to potentially be charged with capital murder, a crime that carries the death penalty in Texas.
The Bill, House Bill 896, would remove the penal code exception for criminal homicide applying to women and doctors related to an unborn child. This would mean that women who obtain an abortion and the doctors who perform the procedure could be charged with assault or criminal homicide; exceptions would be made in cases involving rape or the endangerment of the mother’s health.
Also known as the Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act, the bill would essentially be seen as a blanket abortion ban in Texas as the language allows it to be enforced “regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order or court decision: such as Roe v. Wade.”
The bill states: “A living human child, from the moment of fertilization on fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum, is entitled to the same rights, powers, and privileges as are secured or granted by the laws of this state to any other human child.”
It was introduced to the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee by Republican Representative Tony Tinderholt. Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Leach, a Republican, stated he wouldn’t let a bill make it out of committee that targets women with criminal or civil liability, but he did say he’d grant a hearing for any bill a member requests.
In a hearing, the committee heard from hundreds of witnesses. Leach reported that 446 witnesses had given the bill their approval, and 54 were against it. He said that despite his pro-life stance, he thinks this legislation is moving in the “wrong direction” and will ultimately not advance it.
The president of West Texans for Life, Bim Baxa said: “A woman who has committed murder should be charged with murder.”
Tinderholt told the committee that his bill brings equal treatment to all unborn humans under the law, pointing out that people who kill a pregnant woman are charged with a double homicide.
He had introduced the bill on a previous occasion in 2017 with the aim of reducing unplanned pregnancies. He said he believed that it would help people consider the repercussions of unprotected sex. However, the bill was never given a public hearing the first time around.
Similar efforts have been taking place in other states, with around a dozen states moving on legislation that would ban abortion once a doctor is able to detect a fetal heartbeat. Alabama has taken it further, introducing legislation that would criminalize carrying out an abortion at any stage except in the case where a mother’s life is in danger. A recent heartbeat bill in Georgia would ban abortions at the same point, but the doctors would be punished for carrying out the procedure, not the women who undergo it.
In Mississippi, a bill was signed last month by the Republican governor there that bans abortions once doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat via ultrasound, which can occur as early as six weeks in the pregnancy. Tennessee, Florida, Texas, and Missouri are expected to give approval to similar measures this year. Ohio and Tennessee, meanwhile, are also mulling “trigger laws” that would immediately ban abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
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