AUSTIN, Texas — Despite testimony from hundreds on Monday that went on for hours into the night, Republican House Committee Chairman Jeff Leach has decided to kill a bill that would outlaw abortion altogether in the state of Texas because it “subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liability.”
The two-paragraph statement released by Leach, who leads the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, outlined that he does not believe women who seek to have their babies murdered by an abortionist should be criminally responsible for their actions.
Therefore, he said, he cannot in “good conscience support House Bill 896.”
“I have always been on the front lines in the fight for the sanctity of life, both personally — through my active involvement with pregnancy resource centers and pro-life ministries — and as an elected official, where I have authored and supported some of the nation’s strongest laws,” he said.
“My commitment to advancing the pro-life cause is stronger than ever, and that’s why I cannot in good conscience support House Bill 896 — legislation that subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liability and even the possibility of the death penalty,” Leach continued.
“Trusted pro-life legislators and advocates agree with me that this bill moves our state and the pro-life cause in the wrong direction and it will not be advanced from the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence.”
The bill, also known as the “Abolish Abortion in Texas Act” and introduced by Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, declares that life begins at conception, and grants the unborn the same rights that are entitled to born children.
“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,” it reads in part.
The legislation would also have removed an exception from current Texas criminal homicide law, which states, “This chapter does not apply to the death of an unborn child if the conduct charged is (1) conduct committed by the mother of the unborn child; (2) a lawful medical procedure performed by a physician or other licensed health care provider with the requisite consent, if the death of the unborn child was the intended result of the procedure … ”
The law would have instead read, “Notwithstanding any other law, this chapter applies to the death of an unborn child regardless of whether the conduct charged is (1) conduct committed by the mother of the unborn child; (2) a procedure performed by a physician or other licensed health care provider …”
During Monday’s hearing for the bill, Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, remarked that the legislation would result in women being convicted of murder, and they would thereby face the death penalty. She characterized the bill as killing women, and found it to be counteractive to the goal of ending murder.
Neave had been among other Democrats who released a statement opposing a separate bill not relating to Tinderholt’s offering that requires abortionists to provide care for aborted babies born alive. According to the Statesman, Neave and others skipped the March 25 hearing for the Texas Born-Alive Infant Protection Act altogether.
“While some members of the Texas Legislature insist on attacking as well as offending women directly and indirectly, we will not join this charade by participating in this political grandstanding on issues which are already codified in Texas and federal law,” they wrote. “We refuse to offend our fellow Texas women, their families, and licensed physicians by wasting time on unnecessary legislation designed to intimidate and restrict women’s access to health care.”
Neave did attend Monday’s hearing for the Abolition of Abortion in Texas bill, but asked Mark Lee Dixon of Right to Life of East Texas, “You’re okay with killing somebody for [killing someone else]?” and “You’re okay with killing a woman?”
“I’m okay with justice being served in a court of law,” he replied.
Chairman Leach stated that he opposes abortion, but indicated that he was similarly wrestling with the idea of punishing the woman, especially in regard to whether women who are pressured to obtain an abortion should face punishment.
“I hate abortion. I hate it. I’m agreeing with everything that’s been said here,” he said. “To me, it is absolutely, unequivocally murder. It’s the taking of a life.”
Leach quoted from the Book of Jeremiah, which states that God knew Jeremiah in his mother’s womb.
But he also pointed back to testimony delivered that stated that women are being “lied to,” and said that he “wanted to be honest” with those in the room that “what I’m struggling with from a policy perspective, is what is the best way to meet those women who have been lied to at the point of their need.”
Leach also read from Dixon’s website and pointed to a ministry that Right to Life of East Texas supports, which offers post-abortion assistance.
“All these services that CARE is offering — confidential post-abortion recovery — I don’t want those recovery efforts to take place with a woman who’s behind bars,” Leach stated. “And that’s what I fear this bill does at this point.”
He asked Dixon how he could support H.B. 896, which would make the commission of abortion a crime, and yet refer women to CARE for post-abortion counseling services.
“When we’re on that sidewalk and we’re trying to save lives, we don’t say, ‘Go ahead and have your abortion and God will forgive you,’ but we plead with them not to have that abortion,” Dixon replied. “And the reality is … these women, if it was illegal for them to have an abortion, then they wouldn’t even get there (to an abortion facility).”
“And if we actually treat abortion as murder — which it really, really is … then we’ve got to say that the killing of baby Legend or the killing of Baby Charis (two babies he had helped spare from abortion) should be treated just like the killing of myself or anyone else in this room,” he continued. “Are they equal or are they not equal? That’s what it’s about.”
“What about women who are trafficked and coerced into having abortions?” Leach asked moments later.
“What do we do with those women? Because under the bill, a woman who is coerced and trafficked and driven by her pimp to an abortion clinic without a cell phone, with no freedom whatsoever, and is walked into an abortion clinic and said, ‘You will get an abortion,’ [she would be charged],” he claimed.
“For a woman who is coerced into having an abortion … The text of the bill is very clear: A woman who ends the life, which is recognized under this bill is — as Representative Neave has correctly pointed out — potentially liable for capital murder,” Leach continued.
It is not clear where Leach obtained the notion that the woman would be charged in such an instance, or how the situation would occur. Under the bill, abortion would be illegal, and there would be no abortion facility for the woman to enter. She would have nowhere to go and no abortionist to turn to.
The bill also states that the homicide charge would apply to the mother if there was murderous “conduct committed by” the woman — in other words, the commission of a self-abortion, where she personally kills her own baby.
WOMEN CHARGED IN TEXAS FOR KILLING NEWBORN, BUT NOT UNBORN
In Texas, women who kill or commit crimes against their newborn baby may be, and have been, charged with murder.
As previously reported, in February 2018, a young mother was charged with capital murder after stabbing her newborn daughter multiple times and leaving her body in a storage shed, where she was later discovered by the neighbor boy. The baby’s death was found by the medical examiner to be due to “homicidal violence.”
Months later, another mother was charged with attempted capital murder after giving birth at her place of employment, placing her newborn son in a garbage bag and walking him out to the dumpster to leave him for dead.
Headlines surrounding cases in other states have included, “‘I Just Got Rid of It’: Colorado Woman Accused of Tossing Newborn Over Fence Onto Neighbor’s Deck,” “Florida Mother Facing Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Newborn Twins,” and “Abortion Activists Want Attempted Murder Charge Dropped From Woman Who Used Coat Hanger to Kill Son.”
According to a report from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a number of women within the state have “attempted to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance.”
While a mother may be charged for killing their child even seconds after exiting the birth canal, Texas law prohibits women from facing any criminal penalties for intentionally harming or killing their baby in utero.
The 2003 Prenatal Protection Act criminalizes those who would harm an unborn child, but includes a “certain conduct excepted” section, which states, “This subchapter does not apply to a claim for the death of an individual who is an unborn child that is brought against the mother of the unborn child.”
Tinderholt’s bill sought to correct this allowance, as well as that under current criminal homicide law, and a number of residents who testified on Monday urged Leach to let the bill advance as is.
“These exceptions where a mother can do something a father can’t do [they need to be removed],” a police officer declared. “A father, if he doesn’t want to accept responsibility of his child and slips pills into a drink, and takes the life of his child, that’s capital murder. A mother, [if] she slips a pill [and] doesn’t want to accept responsibility — down her throat, takes the life of an individual, it’s fine, pat on the back.”
“In law enforcement, how can we say this is just?” he asked. “Our hands our tied where we’re forced to be unjust in our dealings.”
One woman stated that years ago, mothers did coat-hanger abortions because they knew would not be charged for committing the act.
“In 1973, before Roe v. Wade, abortion was illegal, except that a mother could not be prosecuted. This caused the coat-hanger abortions, because it was illegal for the doctors but not the mother, and they thought they should get away with this,” she said. “HB 896 is rightly not retroactive.”
“A trafficked woman who is literally coerced into an abortion has zero culpability compared to the pimp or the abortionist,” a third commenter explained. “But, if this bill is passed, pimps would no longer have legal, nice looking facilities to hide their atrocities.”
Rep. Tinderholt posted a statement to social media on Wednesday outlining that he believes his bill is being “mischaracterized,” as all his bill does is close up the current allowance for doctors or mothers to perform an abortion without penalty.
“Section 1.07, Subsection 26, of the Texas Penal Code already defines an individual as ‘a human being who is alive, including an unborn child from fertilization until birth.’ However, Texas law provides two exceptions to homicide for a mother or a medical professional who performs an abortion,” he noted.
“Some think we should exempt mothers, but that would inherently treat unborn children differently than other people who are murdered,” Tinderholt said.
He also noted that there are protections in existing state law for mothers “in the case of a medical emergency or if they are coerced or under duress.”
“None of those instances would result in any penalties whatsoever,” Tinderholt stated.
Christian News Network reached out to Chairman Leach’s office earlier today, but was not able to obtain comment prior to the release of his statement, nor has a response been received by press time.
Among the questions sent to Leach were whether or not he considers a baby in the womb as a person deserving of the same rights and protections under the law as a born child, and why he believes that there should not be any criminal culpability for a mother taking the life of her unborn child as opposed to a newborn.
Leach attends Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, led by Jack Graham, and is active in the Young Families Ministry. Graham, known for his PowerPoint radio and television broadcast, shared Leach’s statement Wednesday evening, writing on Twitter, “I support @leachfortexas 1000 percent. He is a caring and courageous congressman who is leading Texas citizens with grace and truth.”
Leach shared other tweets on his page, including one from Brian Fisher of Human Coalition, which read, “I do not support Texas #HB896, as it imposes a criminal penalty on women who get abortions. In my experience, many women get abortions out of fear, coercion, misinformation, or desperate circumstances. Women need compassionate and immediate care, not jail. #TXlege”
A number of residents have now left messages of deep disappointment under Leach’s announcement and elsewhere.
“It’s not graceful to say abortion is murder and then turn right around and demand that an exemption from punishment be granted to the murderer. That would literally be delusional,” wrote Polk County GOP.
“Please clarify how you will end abortion without criminalizing women. We cannot criminalize the makers of coat hangers. All this does is perpetuate the exploitation of women because they’re exempt from the law,” also remarked Bruce Kendrick.
“[U]nder this law, if he had the guts to pass it, then there would BE NO facilities for the filthy dogs who are trafficking women and coercing the abortions to take them,” wrote Craig Licciardi.
“HB 896 criminal liability is the same as HB 948 in that YOU CO-AUTHORED in 2017! Now you alone have the opportunity to advance a bill that you [sponsored] 2 years ago and you simply wilt under the fear of man,” lamented Mark Einkauf.
Leviticus 19:15 teaches, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment. Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty, but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.”
Isaiah 1:7 also declares, “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”