Moral Low Ground

US Government

Texas Lawmaker Introduces Bill Punishing Abortion as Murder; Says It Will Teach Women ‘Personal Responsibility’

Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) (Photo: Texas House of Representatives)

A Texas state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make all abortions a felony, a move he says would make women “personally responsible” for having sex.

The Texas Observer reports state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) introduced House Bill 948, the Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act, which would ban and criminalize abortions at any stage of pregnancy. Under the bill, women who have abortions and the doctors who perform them are subject to murder charges. Tinderholt’s office said men who are involved in their partners’ abortions would “absolutely” face murder charges too. The measure would also direct state officials to ignore federal law established by the US Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Tinderholt said the bill, if passed, would reduce the number of pregnancies “when [women] know that there’s repercussions.”

“Right now, it’s real easy,” Tinderholt told the Texas Observer. “Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child.”

Men could also be charged under the proposed bill. “The reality is that if the father is in any way involved in the conspiracy to end the life of a human being — communication with an abortion doctor, transportation, facilitation — he will be held accountable,” Tinderholt spokesman Luke Macias told the New York Daily News.

While criminalizing abortion even in cases of rape or incest is wildly out of touch with the views of a majority of Americans — less than one in five people favor banning abortion in all circumstances, Tinderholt said he believes abortion is murder and should never be permitted. “I don’t think that there should be any exceptions to murder, no matter what,” he told the Texas Observer. “So, if this child was out of the womb and it was a child that was born out of rape or incest, no one would be OK with killing a child. I look at it like that child is a child in the womb, just like it’s out.”

Reproductive rights and women’s health advocates blasted the bill. “HB 948 strips away our constitutional right to abortion,” Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement. “This cruel bill is the most extreme measure we’ve seen at the Texas Legislature. It takes away a pregnant person’s legal rights and could open up to investigation and prosecution of anyone who has a miscarriage or who seeks an abortion. When politicians criminalize safe medical procedures, they put patients’ health and safety at risk.”

Abortion foes, however, applauded the measure. Right-wing radio host Jeff Durbin said the bill “provides the support for the civil magistrate to essentially provide justice for these unborn children.”

“Think in terms of consistency here,” Durbin said “If there is a mother who actually, with malice of forethought, ends the life of her 5-year-old, we would call that, in any other context, murder. If there was a mother who hired somebody to kill their 4-year-old child, their 7-year-old child, we would of course call that murder. People who are engaged in the act of ending the life of other human beings in an unjust manner are called murderers in any other context.”

Texas is one of the most abortion-averse states in the nation. Last year, the US Supreme Court struck down the country’s most restrictive abortion access law, which would have shut down almost all the state’s abortion clinics, in a 5-3 ruling. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion that while Texas officials argued the unconstitutional law was meant to protect women’s health, their real motivation was to burden women seeking to terminate pregnancies with daunting obstacles meant to prevent abortions.

Criminalizing abortion would be blatantly unconstitutional. However, with President Donald Trump assembling what is arguably the most anti-choice cabinet since abortion became legal, and with the president likely to appoint a staunchly anti-abortion justice to the Supreme Court, many observers see HB 948 as a way to force the nation’s highest court to revisit — and ideally for Republicans, repeal — Roe v. Wade. The Trump administration has already revived the so-called “global gag rule” banning federal family planning funding for international health groups that provide abortions, refer patients to abortion doctors or even give women information about abortions. Women’s health advocates warn the move could have deadly consequences for countless women around the world.

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