A few months after New York signed into law one of the most expansive and unrestrictive abortion measures in the nation — a law which removes abortion from that state’s penal code and effectively permits an abortion at any point in a woman’s pregnancy — the Texas legislature is now the focus of similar attention with a pro-life bill to outlaw the practice of abortion.
Authored by state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) and co-authored by Representatives Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) and Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act” (HB 896) directly identifies and protects rights of the unborn.
“A living human child, from the moment of fertilization,” the bill reads, “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.”
This legislation, if enacted, would be one of the most extensive enumerations of rights for the unborn in the nation. In a first for those advocating for the abolition of abortion, HB 896 was the subject of a hearing Monday evening.
A majority of witnesses who testified on the bill testified in favor of its passage.
The bill establishes a requirement of the state’s Attorney General to apply chapters 19 and 22 of the penal code (criminal homicide and assaultive offenses, respectively) as legal recourse for aborting a child in the womb. The bill would also permit the state to prosecute the abortion provider and the mother of the unborn child under Texas law.
The “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act” also addresses the conflict with federal abortion law by adding the provision: “Any federal law, executive order, or court decision that purports to supersede, stay, or overrule this Act is in violation of the Texas Constitution and the United States Constitution and is therefore void.” Should the bill become law, numerous challenges to it are likely to be filed in federal court.
When asked about the significance of this bill for Texas, Rep. Biedermann said “Nothing is more important than protecting life. Without the right to life, there are no other rights. When we don’t protect the most innocent, we start walking down a dangerous path. There should be no exceptions in our law to allow taking an innocent human life.”
Rep. Tinderholt wrote in a Texas Scorecard blog post about the bill, “I will continue supporting equal protection for all unborn babies, regardless of their age or location.”
Not only does this bill challenge current definitions of personhood and the rights obtained by that status, but it also challenges the very relationship — as it now sits — between state and federal law.
The bill remains idle in committee and is not scheduled to be brought up. The chair of the committee in which it sits, Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) — who co-authored the same bill last session — said of the bill, “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.”
Abortion has remained a hot-button issue in state legislatures this year. Ohio recently enacted a “heartbeat bill” into law, which would outlaw abortion once an unborn child’s heartbeat has been detected.
*After the bill was first proposed, a firestorm of opposition accompanied it. These opponents ranged from progressive activist Alyssa Milano to Texans for Life. Kyleen Wright, President of Texans for Life, stated “Texans for Life does not support any bill on abortion that would penalize women. Penalizing women only protects the abortionist.”
** The word “permit” has replaced “require” to reflect the objective of the bill more accurately.
Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.