Far-Right Texas Legislator Files Bill to Completely Outlaw Abortion

HB 896 too fanatical even for extreme anti-choice groups

A founding member of the Capitol’s far-right Freedom Caucus faction has filed a bill that would make abortion care outright illegal, legislation too extreme even for the state’s major anti-choice groups.

Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington

House Bill 896 by Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, dispenses with any pretense of respecting the constitutional right to abortion by completely prohibiting the medical procedure “regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order, or court decision.” Tinderholt’s bill affords an embryo at the “moment of fertilization on fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum” with the “same rights, powers, and privileges” as a “human child.” A woman that undergoes abortion and a doctor that performs the procedure could both be held liable for murder, under Tinderholt’s bill.

But the bill is so extreme – and plainly illegal – it’s failing to curry favor with anti-choice groups. Texas Alliance for Life, one of the state’s leading anti-abortion organizations, tells the Chronicle it does not support the bill for a few reasons, including the fact it wouldn’t withstand a federal court challenge and it asks the the Attorney General to ignore the Supreme Court. “We could no sooner ignore SCOTUS than the force of gravity,” says TAL’s Joe Pojman. His group also isn’t getting behind the bill because it criminalizes women who undergo abortion, says Pojman.

And while major anti-choice group Texas Right to Life applauded Tinderholt and his “unwavering” alliance with TRL, they failed to get behind his drastic bill, calling their position “neutral.” The group said they are supportive of laws that “incrementally” challenge Roe v. Wade. “Prudent incrementalism is the most realistic mechanism to end abortion in Texas,” said Kim Schwartz of TRL. “The Pro-Life movement works under the shadow of Roe v. Wade, and shepherding Texas and America toward nullifying that opinion requires carefully utilizing the federal court system.”

This isn’t the first time Tinderholt, one of the most rabid right-wing members of the House, has pushed his zealous anti-choice bill. In 2017 a similar bill died in the State Affairs Committee. At the time Tinderholt defended the bill saying barring access to abortion would “force” women to be “more personally responsible” with sex.

While anti-choice advocates aren’t backing Tinderholt’s bill, they’ve got a slew of other draconian bills they’re pushing, including Senate Bill 389 by Sen. Donna Campbell, R- New Braunfels, which would prohibit local entities to contract with abortion providers and affiliates, a thinly veiled attack on Planned Parenthood.

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Women's Rights, Tony Tinderholt, House Bill 896, Freedom Caucus, 86th Texas Legislature, abortion rights

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