UPDATE, 4/11, 2:49p EST: Christian News reports that GOP House Committee Chairman Jeff Leach has killed the bill “because it ‘subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liability.'” Leach released a statement, saying in part, “I cannot in good conscience support House Bill 896 — legislation that subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liability and even the possibility of the death penalty.”
4/10/19: About 400 people appeared at the Texas Capitol building on Monday to testify in favor of a controversial bill that would outlaw abortion in the state. The House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence held the hearing for House Bill 896, known as the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act,” and made Texas the first state in the nation to hold a public hearing for a bill that would completely ban abortion, according to Christian News.
“326 people drove in from all over the nation to speak for this bill,” wrote Kristine Harhoef of Christian Pregnancy Counseling on Facebook. “Only 4 pro-aborts showed up to speak against it.”
Harhoef said that in all, 446 people registered in favor of the bill to ban abortion and just 54 registered against it, making it the highest number of testimonies for a bill for the entire legislative session thus far. There were so many testimonies that speaking time was cut from three minutes down to one, and the hearing still lasted until three o’clock in the morning on Tuesday.
The bill states that it would not only prohibit abortion, but recognize “the rights, powers, and privileges of all unborn children at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth; affecting criminal offenses and penalties.” It also says that the attorney general will monitor the enforcement of the penal code for criminal homicide in relation to abortion. According to The Hill, and various other media sources, this opens up the possibility that women could potentially be charged with the death penalty for having an abortion — however, it should be noted that it is unknown if a woman has ever in the state’s history been sentenced to death for the crime of infanticide:
The bill would criminalize abortion and classify it as homicide, which would make it possible for a woman to receive the death penalty for having the procedure done. The legislation’s language directs authorities to enforce its requirements “regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order, or court decision.”
For obvious reasons, such a provision is extremely controversial, penalizing not only the abortionist who commits the procedure, but the women who have abortions. The bill reads, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, this chapter applies to the death of an unborn children even if the conduct charged is: (1) conduct committed by the other of the unborn child….” The law could also affect reproductive technology such as IVF. The bill reads, in part:
A second section of the penal code is also amended under the bill to read similarly. Defenders of the bill’s criminalization of abortion for women seem to believe that they are justified due to the fact that abortion law in the U.S. has become extreme in the opposite direction:
The Act needs the support of all five Republicans on the committee in order to move forward since there are four Democrats. Two of the five Republicans – Jeff Leach and James White are in favor of the bill with White acting as co-sponsor. It is unknown whether or not the other three Republican reps – Matt Krause, Morgan Meyer, and Reggie Smith – would vote in favor of the bill. If it does make it out of committee and head to the House and Senate for a vote, the Act would take “effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house.”
According to Christian News, 70,000 petitions were sent to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in February pressing for him to make the abolishing abortion “an emergency item.” He is likely to sign the bill as he promised 16-year-old Jeremiah Thomas, who died in August after a battle with cancer, that he would work to outlaw abortion in Texas.
The complete hearing is available to watch below:
Editor’s Note: This post’s title was changed on 4/11 to reflect the decision to halt the bill.
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