If you’ve ever been to Texas, you know that Texans pride themselves on doing just about everything bigger. This dangerous obsession with size also extends to how far Republicans are willing to go to stop a woman’s right to access abortions. Earlier this month, Texas Republicans in the House and Senate passed a series of anti-abortion bills that are in the process of making their way to becoming law including a ban on insurance coverage for abortions. And now, since they simply refuse to untangle themselves from the inside of a woman’s uterus, they also want to make it legal to charge anyone involved with an unlawful abortion with a crime—including the receptionist in the clinic, the person who drove the woman to the clinic, the clerk she spoke to in the convenience store where she bought a bottle of water on the way to the clinic, nearly anyone who had contact with her while she was in the process of obtaining the abortion. Seriously.
The sweeping anti-abortion bill that passed the Texas House May 19 could allow nearly anyone involved in the process of an unlawful abortion to be charged with a state jail felony, [Rep. Joe Moody, a former prosecutor said]. That includes the doctor who performed the abortion, but also the person who drove the woman to the clinic, the receptionist who booked the appointment and even the bank teller who cashed the check that paid for the procedure.
How truly Neanderthal is this? Rep. Moody, a Democrat, thought this had to be a mistake. It sounded so punitive that he wanted to give his fellow lawmakers an opportunity to amend it so that random people would not be caught in the crosshairs. On Friday evening, he introduced an amendment to the bill (abortion bans that subject doctors who performs abortions to felony charges punishable with prison time) so that it would limit who could be prosecuted. It turns out, it was not an accident. Republicans were perfectly happy with the bill as is.
The amendment failed, 51-83 and only one Democrat, Representative Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, voted against. [...]
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.
Even when given a chance to explain and redeem themselves, lawmakers still support this madness. They are so entrenched in their anti-abortion fervor, that they are willing to lock anyone associated with an abortion up—from women who seek them to doctors to bookkeepers.
“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 Rep. Jeff Leach R- Plano], who was concerned Moody’s proposal might have let them off the hook and requested it be withdrawn.
So by this logic (which isn’t at all logical), a receptionist at a clinic who books an appointment for an abortion or the assistant who cleans the facility after the procedure could be charged with a crime. Because the amendment failed, the abortion bans do not exempt anyone but the woman having the abortion from criminal prosecution. This means that legally anyone involved in an abortion could be charged. But now the pro-lifers are quickly backtracking and saying they would never do such a thing. Imagine that.
Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said that he would support individuals who knowingly assist with the abortion facing prosecution, but that Moody’s inclusion of drivers and receptionists was “far-fetched.”
Far-fetched? These Republicans are absolutely obsessed with controlling women’s bodies. They have made laws to require abortion providers to bury fetal tissue. One Texas Republican lawmaker (Arlington Republican Tony Tinderholt) tried to introduce legislation to have women who have abortions charged with murder, saying that it would make them more “responsible” for sex. So is it really out of left field to imagine that they would charge everyone under the sun for the “crime” of abortion? This bill is an attempt to criminalize anyone who wants to help women have access to reproductive justice. Get ready—it looks like the days of underground railroad to abortion services are back.