AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) — A Texas lawmaker has filed a bill that would abolish and criminalize abortions, leaving women and physicians who perform the procedure to face criminal charges that could carry the death penalty.

The legislation, filed Tuesday by Rep. Bryan Slaton, does not include exceptions for rape or incest. It does exempt ectopic pregnancies that seriously threaten the life of the woman “when a reasonable alternative to save the lives of both the mother and the unborn child is unavailable.”

“It is time for Texas to protect the natural right to life for the tiniest and most innocent Texans, and this bill does just that,” Slaton said. “It’s time Republicans make it clear that we actually think abortion is murder. … Unborn children are dying at a faster rate in Texas than COVID patients, but Texas isn’t taking the abortion crisis seriously.”

Under the bill, women who receive an abortion — and physicians who perform the procedure — could be charged with assault or homicide, which is punishable by death in Texas, confirmed Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. The association does not have a position on the bill.

The bill could require people to give evidence or testify about offenses involving the death of or “bodily injury to an unborn child,” and would offer immunity to those who do.

The bill bans abortions starting at fertilization; most abortions in Texas are currently prohibited after 20 weeks. The bill cites one justice’s opinion in a recent Supreme Court case that says the Constitution “does not constrain the states’ ability to regulate or even prohibit abortion.”

Slaton, a freshman Republican from Royse City, previously tried to stop the House from naming bridges or streets without first voting to abolish abortion. The amendment failed, but was supported by more than 40 lawmakers, about half of the Republicans in the House.

Asked about the bill’s language and effect, Slaton said, without further explanation, that he does not think his bill would “put a single person in jail. All my bill does, is say that an unborn child is the same as a born child and should be treated the same by the laws.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has identified two abortion bills that will be priority items during the legislative session that started in January.

One would ban nearly all abortions if the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision or otherwise altered abortion laws. The other has not been filed, but is expected to be a “heartbeat bill” that could bar abortions before many women know they are pregnant.

Similar measures have been filed before. State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, received death threats and was placed under the protection of the Texas DPS after introducing a 2017 bill. The legislation did not receive a hearing — a related bill in 2019 died in committee.

Back in February, a Travis County District judge temporarily stopped Texas from a ruling that would have removed Medicaid patients from Planned Parenthood care services — even though the state does not generally pay for abortions through Medicaid.

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