Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban abortion in the state and charge women who have abortions with homicide, which can carry the death penalty in the state.
Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican, introduced the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act,” or House Bill 896, in January to “protect the rights of an unborn child” but it was granted its first committee hearing on Monday and Tuesday.
Nearly 500 people testified, with 54 people testifying against the bill, according to The Washington Post.
“A living human child, from the moment of fertilization on fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum, is entitled to the same rights, powers, and privileges as are secured or granted by the laws of this state to any other human child,” the text of the bill reads.
Republican Rep. Matt Krause, who sits on the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, which heard the bill, said in a statement on Facebook before the hearing that it was “the first legislative hearing since 1973 on this topic.”
Tinderholt introduced a similar bill in 2017, but it failed to leave committee. He was placed under state protection because of death threats he received after proposing the bill, according to The Texas Tribune.
Tinderholt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Democrats on the committee excoriated the bill, calling the provisions hypocritical.
“I’m trying to reconcile in my head the arguments that I heard tonight about how essentially one is OK with subjecting a woman to the death penalty … to do to her the exact same thing that one is alleging she is doing to a child,” Democratic Rep. Victoria Neave said during the hearing, according to The Washington Post.
Tinderholt defended the bill, according to Fox 9, a Texas television station.
“I think it’s important to remember that if a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman, they get charged twice. If you murder a pregnant woman, you get charged twice. So I’m not specifically criminalizing women. What I’m doing is equalizing the law,” Tinderholt said.
The bill would ban abortion at any stage of pregnancy and would criminalize women who have abortions and the physicians who perform them, even in cases of rape, human trafficking or incest. The bill directly conflicts with the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which outlawed criminalizing abortion.
Before the bill goes to the full Texas House for debate, it faces a challenge in committee.
Republican Rep. Jeff Leach, chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, told The Dallas News that he would not allow the committee to advance the legislation with provisions that penalize women.
“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,” he told the paper.
Leach did not respond to a request for comment.