AUSTIN, Texas — The state of Texas will make history on Monday as it becomes the first ever in the nation to hold a public hearing for a bill that would outlaw abortion in the state altogether.
The hearing for House Bill 896, also known as the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act,” will be held at the Texas Capitol building before the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence.
While it is not known exactly what time public testimony on the bill will begin, the day’s business will commence at 8 a.m. The hearing will be streamed online, and according to a page for supporters of the bill, more than 3,000 people have either confirmed their participation or stated an interest in attending or viewing the live stream.
Reports state that a number of pastors, as well as other supportive residents, are being lined up to testify in support of the measure.
“A living human child, from the moment of fertilization upon the fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum, is entitled to the same rights, powers, and privileges as are secured or granted by the laws of this state to any other human child,” the bill, introduced by Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, reads in part.
It asserts state sovereignty in that the legislation requires the attorney general to “monitor this state’s enforcement of Chapter 19, Penal Code [surrounding criminal homicide], in relation to abortion” and to “direct state agencies to enforce those laws regardless of any contrary or conflicting federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, or court decisions.”
As previously reported, the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence is chaired by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who co-sponsored an identical bill to abolish abortion in 2017. Rep. James White, R-Hillister, who also serves on the committee, is already a co-sponsor of the current measure.
In order to be advanced to the full House for a vote, the Act needs the full support of its Republican members as the committee is comprised of five Republicans and four Democrats. In addition to Leach and White, Republican Reps. Matt Krause, Morgan Meyer and Reggie Smith sit on the committee. It is not known where these three stand on the legislation.
The bill has generated much support from Texans and beyond as more than 70,000 petitions were submitted to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in February calling for him to make the issue an “emergency item.” While he did not mention abortion at all during his State of the State address on Feb. 5, supporters still expressed a hope that the measure would move forward in the legislature anyway.
The matter also is of special significance this legislative season as Jeremiah Thomas, a 16-year-old boy who died in August following a fight with osteoblastic osteosarcoma, urged Abbott a month prior to his death to abolish abortion in the state of Texas.
“For my wish, I wanted to talk to you and discuss a bill of abolition,” he explained, while speaking to the governor by phone from his hospital room at McLane Children’s Hospital. “[W]e want you to treat abortion like an act of murder that should be punished by law.”
“I know that it must be difficult standing against a whole federal beast that forces abortion on us, but I think that we … could end abortion here and now,” Thomas said.
Abbott told Thomas that the Texas Republican party platform expresses a desire to abolish abortion, and that state lawmakers already planned on putting forward a bill that would make abortion illegal in the state.
“Your wish is on the Republican party platform and it’s what we’re going to be pursuing this next legislative session—that’s to outlaw abortion altogether in the state of Texas,” he told Thomas, the recording of which was posted to social media. “And so, your wish has been granted.”