In the past few months, state lawmakers have filed no less than 17 anti-abortion bills (and judging by past legislative sessions, more are on the horizon). All but three have been filed by men. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all with the underlying intent to steer women away from accessing a legal medical procedure. Even if it means throwing them behind bars.
Here are a few familiar — and somewhat novel — issues anti-abortion lawmakers are zeroing in on this session.
While Texas' so-called "fetal burial rule" is stalled in federal court, state lawmakers have wasted no time trying to dodge litigation and pass an identical law through the state legislature. Just like the rule, introduced by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, House Bill 201 would force health care providers to cremate and bury the remains of all abortions or miscarriages that take place on their premises. And just like the state rule, it comes with little explanation as to how this will be funded, carried out, or even regulated.
Another bill filed in the Senate would require abortion providers give women the 'option' of a burying or cremating these same remains.
Rep. Tony Tinderholdt, an Arlington Republican, is backing legislation that could stick women who have abortions — and their doctors — with a felony charge for criminal homicide. His reasoning? To teach a lesson, apparently. In an interview with the Texas Observer, Tinderholdt said the law would “force” women to be “more personally responsible” with sex. It seems the dozens of other state laws restricting women from getting an abortion weren't enough of a punishment.
“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 has clearly never tried to get an abortion in Texas.
This session, expect to see the resurrection of so-called "personhood" bills — legislation that tries to give unborn fetuses the same rights as a human being. This kind of bill could also leave women with a homicide charge for going through with an abortion, since they'd legally be murdering a human being.
A joint bill filed by Republican Sen. Bob Hall would do just that with a promise to extend constitutional protections to an unborn fetus. There's no clarification in Hall's bill as to when the fetus' rights go into effect — but Rep. Tinderholdt's bill does. According to his HB 948, human rights are given "the moment of fertilization upon the fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum."
Rep. Matt Schaefer proposed legislation that would make it impossible for women to get an abortion after 20 weeks gestation, which is before the period of time when a doctor can detect any fetal abnormalities. Regardless, his House Bill 87 wouldn't let a pregnant woman have an abortion after that point, even if their fetus has a "severe and irreversible abnormality." By definition, these abnormalities include microcephaly (what many Zika-infected babies have been born with), down syndrome, spina bifida, and cerebral palsy. This includes a fetus that doctors are certain will die within days of being born.
Schaefer famously defended a similar measure in the 2015 session by saying the suffering of a mother who must carry a terminal fetus to term is "part of the human condition, when sin entered the world.”
As Planned Parenthood fights state officials who want to prevent the organization from providing health care to low-income women covered by Medicaid, a few conservative lawmakers have spent time penning legislation to fight a non-existent abortion insurance fight. House Bill 1113 would ban all health plans offered through a public health exchange from covering abortion costs, unless it is a "medical emergency." Senate Bill 20 would do the same. However...this is already a federal law. Which begs the question: What message are these lawmakers even trying to send?
In a similar vein is a House bill that demands law enforcement officials file a police report if they hear anything about a women being coerced into having an abortion. Again, this is already something an officer is expected to do. An "abortion coercion" bill filed last session was booted back to the drafting table, with advice that its author “get some real legal folks to help" rewrite the text.
This advice may be useful for most anti-abortion lawmakers this session, too.