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Amid Wave of Anti-Choice Laws, Texas GOP Holds Public Hearing on Putting Women to Death for Obtaining Abortions

"Seriously."

A woman holds a wire hanger at pro-choice protest. (Scrapbook/Creative Commons)

A Texas state House committee on Monday night devoted several hours to discussing potentially subjecting women to the death penalty if they obtain abortions.

Apparently seeking to capitalize on a political moment in which states have passed some of the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the country since Roe vs. Wade passed in 1973, the state House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing that stretched into the early morning hours on House Bill 896. The proposed legislation would criminalize abortion in the state without exception and would classify the medical procedure as a homicide—making it possible for women who get abortion care to be executed by the state.

Republican state Rep. Tony Tinderholt introduced the bill, saying it would make women more "personally responsible."

The proposal includes a specific attack on Roe vs. Wade, noting that state officials would be required to treat abortion as a crime "regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order, or court decision."

With opposition even from the anti-choice group Texans for Life and with the committee reportedly reluctant to send the bill to the full House, H.B. 896 is currently unlikely to become law in Texas. But women's rights advocates expressed shock and outrage that the bill was given the state's first-ever public hearing on a proposal to classify women as criminals for obtaining abortions.

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Supporters of the bill appear to be riding a wave of anti-choice momentum. The hearing was held days after Georgia legislators passed a bill banning abortions after a fetal "heartbeat" can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when many women don't know yet that they are pregnant.

That legislation is now one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws, with a number of GOP-controlled states intent on passing their own "fetal heartbeat" laws—defying the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision, which affirmed that American women have the constitutional right to obtain abortion care.

A number of critics pointed out the obvious hypocrisy within H.B. 896, given that Republicans aim to hold women accountable for supposedly commiting "homicide" while also advocating for those same women to be put to death.

"I'm trying to reconcile in my head the arguments that I heard tonight about how essentially one is okay with subjecting a woman to the death penalty for the exact—to do to her the exact same thing that one is alleging she is doing to a child," said Democratic state Rep. Victoria Neave at the hearing.

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