Since 2003, Texas has included fetal personhood language in its penal code, which recognizes an unborn child as being an individual “at every stage of gestation.”
Amy O’Donnell, director of communications for Texas Alliance for Life — an organization that supports restrictions to abortion access and supported the law that added fetal personhood language to Texas’s penal code — said that under the code, if a pregnant woman is in a car accident and their unborn child is killed, the death could be prosecutable.
In Bottone’s case of contesting an HOV ticket due to a pregnancy, O’Donnell said that while she recognizes Bottone’s unborn baby as a person, she does not necessarily see it as a second passenger because of the “intent and purpose” of the HOV law in the state’s transportation code.
“Each code covers different areas of the law,” said O’Donnell. “Is it still an unborn baby in both situations, absolutely yes. We recognize that. But the purpose of an HOV lane is to carpool, vanpool or ride-share so does that unborn child currently fit within the realm of the law, not at this point in time in Texas.”
O’Donnell said this case in particular opens the door to what she described as a “slippery slope.”
“If we go down this road, if a passenger in an HOV lane that’s riding in its mother’s womb counts as a separate passenger, what does that mean for other passenger areas such as on plane,” said O’Donnell. “If that pregnant woman gets on a plane and we want to recognize that unborn baby in the womb as a second passenger, does she then have to buy a ticket?”
According to O’Donnell, the purpose of giving personhood to unborn babies in state laws is to “protect unborn babies from injury or homicide.”
“Life begins at conception and a body within a pregnant woman’s body is not that woman’s body,” she said. “It’s a unique being with separate DNA, unique fingerprints and, as such, it is very much a person beginning at conception and worthy of protection.”
Texas is one of around one dozen states in the U.S. that includes fetal personhood language in legislation restricting or banning abortion, according to Dana Sussman, deputy executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), a nonprofit organization that supports abortion rights.