State Lawmaker Wants Morning After Pill, Abortion Criminalized So Women Will Behave

Republicans in the Texas Legislature are doing their level best to do just that.
Republicans in the Texas Legislature are doing their level best to do just that. Photo by Francisco Montes
Apparently, making it anywhere from difficult to next to impossible to obtain an abortion in Texas isn't enough for one state representative, because he is aiming to actually make ending a pregnancy a crime.

Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican from Arlington, has come up with a real honey of a bill for the 85th Biennial State Legislative Session. House Bill 948, dubbed the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act." The bill seeks to make abortions illegal, meaning women could face charges as serious as murder.

And it's not just aimed at actual abortions. 

HB 948 claims that fetuses have rights and each one should be considered "a living human child, from the moment of fertilization upon the fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum." Because of this, the fetus, from the moment egg and sperm meet in a fallopian tube, is to be "entitled to the same rights, powers, and privileges as are secured or granted by the laws of this state to any other human child."

Keep in mind that Tinderholt's definition of "a living human child" with legal rights starts before a pregnancy has actually begun, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines. (They say that pregnancy starts when the fertilized egg has implanted on the wall of a woman's uterus, five to seven days after the egg and sperm's meet-cute.)

That may sound like a nice enough idea, but to translate, this will mean that any woman whether she takes a morning-after pill or goes to doctor for an abortion, will actually be facing a felony charge if she is caught. In fact, everyone involved in a setup where "the death of the unborn child was the intended result of the procedure," including the healthcare providers ending Tinderholt's definition of a pregnancy, would be liable.

Grand, isn't it?

Tinderholt cooked up this piece of legislation based on Texas Republican priorities outlined last year. Back in May the state Republican Party a legislative priority calling on the Legislature to abolish abortion entirely and refuse to enforce any and all federal statutes, regulations, executive orders and court rulings that protect the legality of abortion.

Back then many politicians on both sides of the aisle assumed Hillary Clinton would be the next president, not Donald Trump, and thus figured they'd be fighting in the trenches over unborn fetus rights versus the constitutional rights of women. Even though that assumption turned out to be wrong, Tinderholt has waded into the fray, undeterred.

He has his reasons though. He wants to teach women a lesson, apparently.

(We didn't say they were good reasons.)

Tinderholt recently told the Texas Observer that the law would “force” women to be “more personally responsible” with sex. Because all women who end up with unwanted pregnancies, weigh out the options and make the sometimes incredibly difficult choice to not have a baby are simply being irresponsible, according to Tinderholt's way of thinking.

“Right now, it’s real easy," Tinderholdt said. "Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’" Tinderholdt clearly has never tried to get an abortion in Texas.

However, we noticed one glaring oversight in all of this. Tinderholt wants to hold women more responsible for sex and the consequences of it, but men would get offbscot-free.

There's no mention in HB 948 of felony charges for a man who helps create the packet of cells, who also agreed not to use a condom, or who failed to mention that the condom he had on hand had been in his wallet since 1998. There's also not a peep about charges for the man who takes a woman to get Plan B or drives her to and from the abortion clinic.

We've asked Tinderholt's office if there are any plans to expand HB 948 to address what we presume is just an oversight on his part. Specifically, we've inquired whether there are plans to add in language to charge the man who also did the copulating. Under Tinderholt's logic, couldn't a one night stand be abandonment, or endangering a child?

We're also wondering if the man involved in the sex might be included as an accessory to the crime, like the getaway driver in a bank robbery. (We also asked if Tinderholt is looking at criminalizing masturbation, tube tying operations and vasectomies, just because arguably these acts are all either wasting or preventing life from occurring.) We haven't heard back yet. We'll update as soon as we do.

It's hard to tell how well this bill will do the Legislature. For one thing, the U.S. Supreme Court has already overturned the state's last attempt at a stringent anti-abortion law as unconstitutional, so that might give legislators pause. Plus, with so many abortion bills filed this session, HB 948 may not get traction simply because of the crowded field.

One thing is clear though: Women are the ones truly in the crosshairs of culpability, according to Tinderholt's reasoning. If a woman gets "in trouble" as the saying goes, she's on her own, and it's all her fault — well hers and the doctor's — no matter the circumstances.  
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray