Healthcare

Lawmakers Have Abortion on the Mind as Texas Legislative Session Approaches

One bill aims to celebrate the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
One bill aims to celebrate the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Mike Brooks
A summer controversy in Plano has sparked a new bill filed ahead of the upcoming legislative session in Texas. On the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the state’s anti-abortion laws taking effect, Brandy Bottone of Plano decided to take the HOV lane one day in late June. But, depending on who you ask, she was the only one in the car. When she was pulled over for driving alone in the HOV lane, Bottone told police that she actually wasn’t alone because she was 34 weeks pregnant.

Texas law fashioned around the abortion issue recognizes her fetus as a living child. The state’s transportation code, however, doesn’t. So, the cop ended up writing Bottone a ticket, which was later dismissed. Her story went viral, making national headlines when the media caught wind of the traffic stop.

Bottone later gave birth to a healthy baby girl, according to WFAA, but the issue was reignited with the filing of House Bill 521 by Texas Rep. Briscoe Cain. This would solidify in state law that a pregnant person’s fetus counts as a second person, allowing them to use the HOV lane. Cain didn’t respond to requests for comment, but he also filed House Bill 522, which would make June 24 Celebration of Life Day. June 24 is the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has made an annual holiday for his office.

These are just two of the many abortion-adjacent bills filed and expected to be taken up in the state legislature next year.

Another one is House Bill 60, filed by Rep. Cody Vasut, which would require public school districts instructing grades K–12 to teach that “human life begins at conception and has inherent dignity and immeasurable worth from the moment of conception.”

Then, you have House Bill 61 filed by Rep. Candy Noble, a law that would prohibit any government entity from providing logistical support to abortion services. The bill defines logistical support as “(1) child care; (2) travel or any form of transportation to or from an abortion provider; (3) lodging; (4) food or food preparation; (5) counseling that encourages a woman to have an abortion; and (6) any other service that facilitates the provision of an abortion.”

But, legislation has also been filed to offer protections to people seeking abortions in Texas.

For example, Sen. Nathan Johnson of Dallas filed Senate Bill 79, which would protect people getting abortions from criminal, civil or administrative penalties. Another one of Johnson’s bills, Senate Bill 78, would make it legal for a physician to provide abortion-inducing drugs to pregnant people.

Sen. Carol Alvarado filed two bills co-authored by a handful of other senators. These are senate bills 122 and 123, and they would do some interesting things. Specifically, they provide exceptions to the state’s strict abortion laws. Texas abortion laws do not provide exceptions for rape or incest. SB 122 would allow abortions in cases of sexual assault, even if there’s no police report, prosecution or forensic evidence. SB 123 expands the law to include even more exceptions. Under this bill, abortion could be allowed when it’s necessary to save a patient’s life, or their physical or mental well-being. Abortions would also be allowed under this bill if there’s a lethal diagnosis to the fetus or one that would require extraordinary medical intervention to keep it alive outside the womb. If passed, these exceptions wouldn’t be subject to review after the fact under SB 123.

These are just a few of the abortion-related laws expected to make it into the upcoming legislative session, and there will likely be many more filed by the time the session starts in January.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

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