Reading Time: 3 minutes By University of Toronto Students for Life [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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Texas lawmakers are trying it on, and it’s not looking good because the Senate accepted House amendments the bill and it now heads to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for his approval.

What is the bill? Well, as the Texas Observer states:

The Observer spoke to several other attorneys who each interpreted the bill’s applications differently — indicating, at the very least, that the bill provides a subjective tool for prosecutors, who can be politically motivated. And that has Moody worried.

SB 8, which awaits final approval from the Senate, would criminalize “partial birth abortions” and “dismemberment abortions” — both nonmedical terms used by anti-abortion advocates. The first is for a procedure already prohibited under federal law, and the second describes a dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, one of the most common forms of second trimester abortions. Both bans would subject a doctor who performs the abortion to a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in prison, and exempt the woman who had the procedure. But under Texas law, prosecutors could come after anyone else involved in the process, unless they’re specifically exempted in the legislation.

The “law of parties” in Texas allows a person connected to but not actually committing a crime to also be charged. A person is criminally responsible under Texas law if he or she, acting with intent, “solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense.” The law is intended to help take down criminal networks, Moody says, but can also be wielded against, for example, individuals loosely connected to the provision of an unlawful abortion.

An important question remains as to whether other people involved were knowingly involved:

If a bookkeeper or receptionist has no idea what’s going on, they shouldn’t be held to the same responsibility as the doctor performing the abortion, Leach told the Observer. But if they do know, that’s a different story.

“If there’s any individual who may not actually be performing the abortion but is knowingly assisting the criminal enterprise — that may not be a good way to put it — who is knowingly assisting in the provision of an unlawful abortion — then our laws ought to be narrowly tailored to hold those responsible,” said Leach, who was concerned Moody’s proposal might have let them off the hook and requested it be withdrawn.

As GOP lawmakers move to expand the scope of prosecution, they’ve also broadened the definition of what constitutes an illegal abortion. Following the 2016 Supreme Court ruling that struck two main provisions from Texas’ House Bill 2, members have shifted their rhetoric on abortion. Instead of claiming to protect women’s health, they’re criminalizing the procedure.

The Abolish Abortion Act, proposed by Arlington Republican Tony Tinderholt, also of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, would criminalize abortion at any stage and charge women and providers with a felony, without exemption for rape or incest. Tinderholt told the Observer the proposal would “force” women to be “more personally responsible.” Another proposal by fellow caucus member Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, would remove the exception for fetal anomaly from the state’s 20-week abortion ban.

Newsweek adds:

“The fact that that amendment didn’t go anywhere just demonstrates [the lawmakers’] intent to make it so that no one can help anyone seek an abortion,” Aimee Arrambide, program manager and reproductive rights policy specialist at the Public Leadership Institute, tells Newsweek. “To just make it as far out of reach as possible.”

“They are unconcerned with the constitutionality of the law, they’re unconcerned with access to women’s health,” adds Arrambide, who also works for Fund Texas Choice, an organization that helps Texan women pay for abortions. “They’re only concerned with driving the anti-abortion rhetoric and banning abortion.”…

Marc Rylander, director of communications at the Texas Attorney General’s office, says the office “cannot speculate on future enforcement actions, [but] it can say with certainty that dismemberment abortions are gruesome and demonstrate a complete lack of respect for human life.” So-called dismemberment abortion is a non-medical term used by abortion opponents to describe the D&E procedure.

“The attempt to undermine the law with far-fetched hypotheticals is just that—a red herring designed to shift the focus from where it should be,” adds Rylander. “It is heartening that an emerging consensus of states agree with Texas on the need for measures that protect the dignity of human life and the integrity of the medical profession.”

Texas Representative Cindy Burkett, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement that SB8 “makes it clear that a woman receiving an abortion, either partial-birth or dismemberment, is not committing an offense.” She adds: “There is no situation in which any individual other than the person performing the abortion could be criminally liable.”

SB8 will very likely face legal battles if Abbott puts pen to paper. Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement on Friday that her organization “vows to battle any unconstitutional measures in the courts until the rights of Texas women are respected and protected.”

For those like Arrambide, there’s no choice but to press on.

“The feeling in general is that we’re here to fight for abortion rights and the communities we represent,” she says. “I don’t think that we could live any other way.”

This is jus another example of how America seems to be taking one step forward and two backwards. No, just two backwards.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...