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Will Texas “Abolish Abortion”?

Liberator Staff Photo

Abolitionists from around the country gathered in Austin last weekend to support a bill to abolish abortion in the state of Texas.

House Bill 948, authored by Republican Rep. Tony Tinderholt, is one of the first bills in history to treat abortion as murder, instead of attempting to regulate it as healthcare.

The highlight of the four-day “Abolish Abortion Texas” conference was a rally at the state capitol. Tinderholt, as well as a number of the bill’s co-sponsors and others involved in the effort to abolish human abortion in Texas spoke at the event, calling other legislators to support the bill, and encouraging supporters to lobby on its behalf.

“There has never been a better time to pursue the abolition of abortion than right now,” Tinderholt said. “Since 1973 and the legalization of murder in this country, over 58 million babies have been slaughtered under the lie of choice and individual freedom, and we’re stopping it in Texas.”

Attendees marched to the Capitol from the Austin Women’s Health Center, and by the time the march reached the Capitol grounds, numbers had swelled to upwards of 1,000. They carried signs with messages like “Ignore Roe”, “The Supreme Court is Dead Wrong”, and “Stop Regulating Murder”.

Scott Herndon, an abolitionist in attendance said, “All we are asking legislature to do, is to stop regulating abortion, and instead abolish it – treat it as murder.”

Supporters had strong words for pro-life legislators, who have historically opted for regulatory measures and Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that restrict access to abortion in lieu of total abolition:

“Every legislator (in Texas) has sworn an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States of America. HB 948 is the most constitutional bill filed this session. So if you have sworn an oath to uphold the constitution than you need to support this bill,” said Arlington attorney Bradley Pierce, who helped write the language of the bill. “If you believe the constitution gives a woman a right to an abortion and you’re a Republican, you’re in the wrong party. But if you believe the constitution… instead says that the life of a child may not be taken without due process of law… that’s what this bill does.”

Texas State Representative Tony Tinderholt (Author of HB 948)

This is the first time abolitionists have assembled specifically to support a piece of filed legislation, although in 2016 a similar bill was filed in Oklahoma during the “Abolish Abortion Oklahoma” conference, as a result of abolitionist agitation and action. Similar bills are now being introduced in multiple states across the country, as more and more legislators recognize the inconsistency of a position that calls abortion murder while regulating it as healthcare.

Texas penal codes already define the unborn as individuals and protect them from death or injury, except at the hands of their own parents and/or physician. HB 948 would remove that exception, criminalizing abortion and requiring state officials to defy any conflicting federal laws.

Despite widespread support by both abolitionists and members of the pro-life movement, most mainstream pro-life leaders and organizations have either remained silent on it, or voiced opposition to the bill.

Abby Johnson, CEO of “And Then There Were None”, stated in a Facebook comment, “I do not support this bill because it is unconstitutional. We have made great strides in Texas by passing constitutional legislation that works. I also do not support legislation that punishes women.”

The bill is currently in the state affairs committee, and advocates are lobbying for it to be heard on the house floor. Abolish Abortion Texas representatives say they do not expect it to be viewed favorably in committee, claiming that the presence of lesser pro-life bills put forward simultaneously give legislators an easier option.

“HB 948 won’t be viewed favorably by the committee, simply because the pro-life movement has given them something less to legislate,” said Wisconsin pastor and Missionaries to the Preborn founder Matt Trewhella, who attended the rally. ‘Whenever you give a politician something less to do than what is needed and necessary, they’ll take it every single time.”

Nonetheless, abolitionists say the fact that the bill was filed at all is a victory, signalling a major shift in the legislative approach to fighting abortion. Additionally, their lobbying efforts have resulted in the addition of another co-sponsor who signed onto the bill after the rally.

Photo by Conner Haines