Advocates for outlawing abortion gathered at the Capitol on Monday to support a bill that would prohibit abortions in Texas, regardless of federal laws and court decisions that permit them.
House Bill 896 by Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, would outlaw abortions without providing any stipulations for cases of rape, incest or safety of the mother. The bill would make abortion a criminal homicide, which carries penalties ranging from a state jail felony to a capital felony — punishable by death, life in prison or life without parole.
“We’re here today to bring a bill to the committee about abolishing abortion in Texas and criminalizing abortion because abortion is murder, whether you are an unborn child or whether you are born,” said Delaney Head, member of Abolish Abortion Texas. “Every human being has a right to life. We want equal justice for the murder of unborn children as for those who are born.”
Over 400 people registered to testify about the bill before the Judiciary and Criminal Jurisprudence committee. The committee was scheduled to hear over six hours of testimony.
Head said she adopted three children, who she called “poster children” for why people often have abortions, because they were neglected and left to the foster care system for years.
“My children are not less valuable because of the kind of life that they’ve had,” Head said. “They do have something to give to the world, but our society and our culture and our country has said it’s okay to kill them.”
In 2016, 54,507 abortions were performed in Texas, according to Politifact. Tatum Zeko, an English senior at UT-Austin, said she is against HB 896 because she believes abortions should be legal, especially for women who experienced rape or have medical conditions.
“I don’t believe ‘abortion’ is a dirty word,” Zeko said. “I think society and religion have told us to believe that it’s a dirty word, when in all honesty, the people that I’ve known that have gotten an abortion are doing it because they need it and because it’s going to better their lives.”
Bradley Pierce of Abolish Abortion Texas spoke to over a hundred anti-abortion advocates at a rally before the committee heard the bill.
“We believe that everyone is created in the image of God,” Pierce said. “That’s why every single life from the moment of conception is of equal value and deserving of equal protection. And that’s what HB 896 is all about, equal protection.”
Pierce said members of Abolish Abortion Texas believe Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion, is wrong and should be ignored.
“We believe that it is the duty of Texas to stand up for the preborn and to ignore Roe because Roe is unconstitutional,” Pierce said. “People say we can’t ignore the Supreme Court. Well, the Supreme Court is a constitutional body and that’s great. But you know what, where the Court ignores the Constitution, then we must ignore the Court.”
Zeko said denying a Supreme Court ruling won’t work and that HB 896 is unlikely to pass into law.
“There will be too many court cases against it,” Zeko said. “It just won’t go much further.”
The committee was still hearing testimony at the time of publication.