Texas Legislature

Texas GOP Lawmakers Again Push to Criminalize Abortion

Texas Republican lawmakers are pushing to criminalize abortion.
Texas Republican lawmakers are pushing to criminalize abortion. Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash
Just as sure as hell is hot, Republican state lawmakers push to impose restrictions on abortions each legislative session. But a new bill filed last Tuesday stands out among even the most extreme.

Royse City state Rep. Bryan Slaton is pushing to ban and criminalize abortions, and his bill would see that women and attendant physicians might have to face the death penalty. Although the bill would provide exemptions in certain cases where the woman’s life was threatened, rape and incest aren’t among them.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Critics on social media were quick to point out that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade.

“So you’re saying you want to execute someone for doing something that’s legal?” user @texastornado52 said in a tweet.
But even some Texans who are against abortions say the bill goes too far.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, who describes herself as a pro-life feminist, thinks Slaton’s bill is "absurd." Even though she’s against abortion, the founder of the activist organization New Wave Feminists said the move to punish women is “completely antithetical to what we stand for.”

“These women are in dire straits. They’re in a desperate, horrifying situation, and we want to help them out, not cause them more harm by punishing them.” – Pro-life feminist Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa

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Extreme bills like Slaton’s may excite the base, but they do nothing to fix the root problem, Herndon-De La Rosa said. Lawmakers should push to pass legislation that would provide more support for pregnant women in need.

“These women are in dire straits,” she said. “They’re in a desperate, horrifying situation, and we want to help them out, not cause them more harm by punishing them.”

Slaton’s bill isn’t likely to go forward, said Jason Vaughn, policy director for the Texas Young Republicans. A similar bill came up during the 2019 session and didn’t have a single vote in committee.

The religious right needs to stop shaming single mothers because that, in itself, can push them to seek an abortion, Vaughn said.

Other Republican lawmakers have filed a flurry of legislation seeking to restrict women’s access to abortions in the Lone Star State. On Thursday, East Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes filed a “heartbeat” bill that would prohibit abortion unless the mother’s life was at risk.

In late January, Southlake state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione filed a similar bill in the House, along with 20 coauthors, among them Rep. Brooks Landgraf, Rep. Jake Ellzey and others.

Vaughn hopes that one of the heartbeat bills this session sticks. Before he was born, doctors told Vaughn’s mother that he might not survive; had they detected issues in the womb, she could have been encouraged to abort.

“We don’t want anyone to lose their baby, obviously; we’re pro-life,” Vaughn said, adding he understands it would be hard for a woman to give birth to a child who might not survive. “But I think we also need to realize that there’s a massive difference of that baby dying of natural causes and us putting that baby to death.”

This comes as a state judge on Wednesday ruled that Texas can boot Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program, according to The Hill. For years, the state has gunned to remove the women’s health care center, attempts that often wound their way through the federal courts.

Journalist Olivia Messer derided the move on Twitter.

“How many Texas women have at one point relied on Planned Parenthood for routine health exams and check ups?” she said. “I know I have. Countless others still do. This is awful.”
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter