Abortion rights activists in the US
Abortion rights activists in the US
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

Texas state legislators are considering the introduction of a new law that would punish women who seek an abortion with the death penalty.

Abortion is currently legal in the Lone Star state but the deeply controversial bill would seek to completely reclassify it as a penal offence.

House Bill 896 or the "Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act", conceived of by Republican congressman Tony Tinderhold, would criminalise both women who have abortions and doctors who carry them out at clinics, stipulating that state and local government officials should enforce it "regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order or court decision".

The bill considers abortion an act of homicide and would allow for no exceptions, even if one were obtained in cases of rape, incest or when the health of the mother was at risk.

"I think it’s important to remember that if a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman, they get charged twice," Tinderhold said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing for the bill on Wednesday night. "If you murder a pregnant woman, you get charged twice. So I’m not specifically criminalising women. What I’m doing is equalising the law."

Tinderhold, a US Air Force veteran, says the measure is necessary to make women "more personally responsible". He has been married five times.

The bill will now go before the Texas House of Representatives for debate.

It is not expected to be voted through, however, with even Jeff Leach, the representative who allowed the hearing, saying that he could not support it even though he considers himself "pro-life":

This bill moves our state and the pro-life cause in the wrong direction and it will not be advanced.

The reaction of Dallas Democrat Victoria Neave summed up the thoughts of many:

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 for the exact... to do to her the exact same thing that one is alleging she is doing to a child.

Online, the reaction was much the same.

Earlier this month, legislation was introduced in Alabama that would make carrying out an abortion at any stage of a pregnancy punishable by anywhere between 10 and 99 years in jail.

The fact that such laws are even being taken seriously is indicative of the extent to which women's reproductive rights are under threat in the age of Donald Trump.

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