Texas bill calling abortion ‘homicide’ likely won’t pass, but others could

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Texas Capitol FILE TB

AUSTIN (KXAN/AP) — On Tuesday, state lawmakers heard a bill that would classify abortion as homicide and would allow women who have them to be sentenced to the death penalty. 

House Bill 896, written by Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, would criminalize abortion and make punishments for getting one anything from life in prison to death. The bill does not include any exceptions in the case of rape or incest.

“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 for the exact — To do to her the exact thing that one is alleging that she is doing to a child,” said Democratic State Rep. Victoria Neave, of Dallas, during the hearing. 

The hearing for the bill went into the early morning hours Tuesday and was left pending in committee.

But it isn’t likely to move very far from there.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, the chairman of the House Committte on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, allowed the bill to be heard in the spirit of creating a “culture of life” but has said he will not allow the committee to advance any legislation that targets women, saying:

“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.”

The bill is not popular even among anti-abortion groups. The Texas Alliance for Life says the bill goes against precedent, as the state didn’t prosecute any women for having an abortion before it was legalized. Meanwhile, Texans for Life says it opposes the bill because it punishes women.

“Texans for Life does not support any bill on abortion that would penalize women,” organization president Kyleen Wright said. “Penalizing women only protects the abortionist.”

While HB 896 is very unlikely to pass, it isn’t the only abortion-related bill floating around in Texas.

Bills with better odds of passing

In March, a bill that would ban cities from contracting, leasing or donating to standalone abortion providers passed through the Senate Committee of State Affairs. The bill will head to the full Senate for a vote.

Earlier this month, the Texas Senate approved a preliminary vote for a bill that would prohibit state and local governments from partnering with agencies that perform abortions — even if they contract for services not related to the procedure.

Abortion bills nationwide

Mississippi and Kentucky have passed laws that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — which means as early as six weeks, when many women don’t even know they’re pregnant. Georgia could join them if Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signs a measure that has been sent to him, and a bill in Ohio is nearing final passage.

Similar bills have been filed in at least seven other states with GOP majorities who oppose abortion in their legislatures.

The influx of new abortion legislation comes after the Supreme Court has become more conservative, due to the appointment of its two newest members, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Staci Fox, Atlanta-based CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said these bans are “blatantly unconstitutional and lawmakers know it — they just don’t care.” The goal, she said, is to “challenge access to safe, legal abortion nationally.”

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