In its first public hearing, testimonies over a Texas abortion bill that would give the death penalty to women who end their pregnancy stretched late into Tuesday morning, the Washington Post reports. The legislation would classify abortion as homicide and hold women criminally responsible for having the procedure, possibly resulting in the death penalty, according to the Post. It received its first public committee hearing in the Texas House of Representatives on Monday,
The legislation is the brainchild of state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, who proposed a similar bill in 2017 that went nowhere. Tinderholt, who has been married five times, told the Texas Observer in 2017 that access to abortion makes it "real easy" for women to avoid being held "personally responsible" for their actions.
That version of the bill didn't even get a hearing, the Washington Post reports. But the most recent version did, and according to the Post, 446 witnesses signed up to testify in favor of the bill at a marathon session that stretched into Tuesday morning.
One supporter said at the hearing that Texas is "literally missing billions of dollars in taxpayer money" by allowing legal abortion in the state, the Post reports, while many cited their Christian faith in explaining their support for the bill. Several supporters praised Trump during their testimonies, the Post reports.
However, the bill also received pushback, the Post reports, with one opponent testifying that "murdering your citizens for a medical procedure is pretty extreme to me." Significantly, several anti-abortion groups also oppose the bill, the Dallas Morning News reports, including the Texas Alliance For Life and Texans for Life.
The Texas Alliance For Life told the Dallas Morning News that Tinderholt's bill would be an flatly unconstitutional violation of Roe v. Wade, which prohibits states from banning abortions before a fetus becomes viable. Texans for Life told the newspaper that the group "opposes criminalizing or penalizing women as it only protects the abortionist."
The Texas legislature has a history of imposing harsh restrictions on abortion. In 2013, the state made national news when, despite an 11-hour filibuster by then-state Sen. Wendy Davis, it passed a bill that banned abortion at 20 weeks and required abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. That bill was partially struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016.
Tinderholt made news for unrelated reasons in 2015, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported at the time, when he filed an error-filled, handwritten judicial complaint against a Texas judge in an attempt to halt gay marriage licenses from being issued in the state. According to the Telegram, however, Tinderholt filed the complaint against the wrong state judge, and cited a law that wouldn't have applied even if he'd targeted the correct judge.
Although Tinderholt's abortion bill did receive a hearing this time, its prospects of final passage are murky. House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Chair Rep. Jeff Leach, who authorized the hearing, says that he opposes the bill, according to the Dallas Morning News, and that the won't let it out of his committee.
"I do not believe that convicting a woman who has an abortion of murder and possibly subjecting her to the death penalty is constitutional, nor does such a policy advance the cause of life in Texas," Leach told the Dallas Morning News. "I cannot and will not support nor will I let come out of this committee any bill on [abortion] which targets the woman with either civil or criminal liability."