A Republican pro-life politician has axed a bill that would abolish, and criminalize, abortion in the state of Texas. In a move that has outraged many of the pro-life community, Republican House Committee Chairman Jeff Leach decided to shelve the Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act, because it “subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liability.”
The bill, HB 896 was debated late into the night Monday. Over the lengthy hearing, which took place at the Texas capitol, numerous testimonies were delivered both in favor and against the wide-ranging ban.
Pro-life community split over criminalization
Originally authored by Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R) some two years ago, the bill has split the pro-life community, with many believing that the life of an unborn child should equate to that of an adult — and thus, anyone involved in the ending of a young life should face murder charges.
Indeed, the bill, which seeks to endow unborn children with the same inalienable rights as adults, reads as follows:
“A living human child, from the moment of fertilization on 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.”
Thus, those who violate these rights and kill a child, would be subject to the same penal codes that govern the ending of human life in any other circumstance.
“There is a lot of misinformation being spread about HB 896, and I would like to clear up some of the confusion,” Rep. Tinderholt posted on Facebook Wednesday. “My bill simply accomplishes one goal. It brings equal treatment for unborn human beings under the law.”
The politicians also cleared up some confusion on the legal parameters surrounding incidents of miscarriage or concerns over contraception issues.
“Abortion does not include contraceptives, miscarriage, or removal of an ectopic pregnancy,” he wrote. “We also have protections for women 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.”
Pastor Mark Dickson, the director of Right to Life of East Texas, told Faithwire that, by holding his current position, chairman Leach was “not treating the lives of those inside the womb as equal with those who are outside the womb,” and that this was “a great tragedy.”
However, others disagreed. Texans for Life president, Kyleen Wright, noting that her group “opposes criminalizing or penalizing women as it only protects the abortionist.”
Leach said that he could not support HB 896 “in good conscience”
In a two-paragraph statement issued to explain his reasons for shooting down the bill, Rep. Leach insisted that he had “always been on the front lines in the fight for the sanctity of life,” and that he had “authored and supported some of the nation’s strongest laws.”
Leach added that his “commitment to advancing the pro-life cause is stronger than ever,” and that’s why he could not support “legislation that subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liability and even the possibility of the death penalty.”
He concluded: “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.”
In theory, under HB 896, women could potentially face the death penalty if they were convicted of abortion-related murder.
Out of step with scripture?
Pastor Dickson told Faithwire that any pro-life person of faith who is insisting that “men and women should not be prosecuted for the murder of their unborn children,” is “out of step with scripture” on the issue.
Jack Graham, the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, has come out in public support of Leach’s position.
“I support Rep. Leach 1000 percent. He is a caring and courageous congressman who is leading Texas citizens with grace and truth,” Graham tweeted, quoting the Chairman’s statement.
Pastor Dickson, however, sees this type of rhetoric as the pinnacle of hypocrisy.
“It is nonsensical,” Dickson told Faithwire. “On the one hand Chairman Leach and others will say, “abortion is murder” but on the other hand they are not willing to pass legislation that will treat abortion as murder.”
As for the criminalization aspect specifically, Dickson said he is “sure many police officers could share about how men and women commit a wide variety of crimes out of “fear, coercion, misinformation, or desparate circumstances,” adding that “the reasoning behind the offense does not invalidate the offense itself.”