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Texas Republicans Are So “Pro-Life” They’re Willing to Murder Pregnant People to Prove It

Pro-choice activist holds a sign reading Keep Abortion Legal with the US capital building in the background.

For decades, the anti-choice movement has insisted on branding themselves “pro-life.” Choosing that name was a masterfully effective piece of marketing, but it didn’t actually reflect their values.

If these people were really pro-life, they would care about our country’s maternal mortality rate as much as they care about abortion; they would support the breast cancer screenings and other health services provided by clinics like Planned Parenthood, rather than try to “defund” them; they would support free and easy access to contraception so that people could be in control of their own reproductive options; they would attend protests for children being separated from their parents at the border, children who can’t drink the water in Flint, Michigan, black children being killed by the police across the country, and so many more, instead of just protests against abortion.

These people are not pro-life, they are pro-birth and anti-woman. And that’s never been clearer than in a bill recently introduced in the Texas House which would make it possible for women to receive the death penalty for having an abortion.

This bill, written by Republican Rep. Tony Tinderholt, would allow for abortions to be considered homicide, in a state that allows for capital punishment in homicide cases. There are no exceptions written into the bill, such as rape, incest, or threat to the pregnant person’s life.

Tinderholt says that his bill “simply accomplishes one goal. It brings equal treatment for unborn human beings under the law.” But he also claims that it will make women “more personally responsible” and when he first introduced this legislation back in 2017 (it was dismissed without a public hearing), he put a lot of emphasis on his desire to see punishment for what he clearly sees as women’s wantonness.

“Right now, it’s real easy,” he told the Observer (via Vox). “Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child.”

Speaking of children and repercussions and responsibilities, it feels important to note that Mr. Family Values here has been married five times to four women and has children by at least two of those women. Normally, I would say his personal life isn’t worth bringing into a discussion of his politics, but as long as he’s out here trying to legislate our bodies, I think it’s pretty relevant.

Tinderholt’s bill isn’t likely to pass, but it does give a window into just how far many Republicans are willing to go to control women’s bodies. At the bill’s public hearing this week, lawmakers heard testimony from more than 400 religious leaders, anti-choice activists, and passionate Texas residents.

“A woman who has committed murder should be charged with murder,” argued the president of one anti-choice group (via the Washington Post). Another woman felt confident telling lawmakers, “We are literally missing billions of dollars in taxpayer money,” suggesting that criminalizing abortion would see a boost to the economy from all the babies being born, because through the “pro-life” lens, women are chattel, meant to bear children for the greater good.

The idea of punishing women—and specifically murdering women—for seeking abortions isn’t supported by the entire anti-choice movement. A number of anti-choice groups have spoken out against Tinderholt’s bill. But pushing for fetuses to be granted “personhood” is not a new or radical concept for them. Republicans in a number of states are currently pushing for the concept. Tinderholt is clearly a monster, but he’s just taken existing GOP beliefs to their (il)logical extreme.

(image: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.