The bill adds a key line to Texas Family Code to define the beginning of life and legal rights at conception.
“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 reads.
Slaton makes exceptions for procedures meant to remove an ectopic pregnancy or otherwise save the mother’s life.
As a number of pro-life lawmakers have noted, Texas statutes still define “individual” as “a human being who is alive, including an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth” in the definitions of the Penal Code, where murder is prohibited. The legislature wrote in an exception for lawful abortion in 2003.
Slaton’s bill would require the state to enforce these chapters of the Penal Code under a definition of life that begins at conception.
The bill also nods to a recent case in the U.S. Supreme Court, June Medical Services v. Russo. Specifically, it cites a statement from Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent: “The constitution does not constrain the States’ ability to regulate or even prohibit abortion.”
The challenged Louisiana law in June, which a slim majority of the court voted against, required abortion physicians to hold active admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Texas passed a nearly identical law that grew into the landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstadt case, also struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016.
While the lion’s share of Thomas’ dissent disputes whether an abortion clinic has standing to sue for injuries it did not incur, it includes a blistering critique of the court’s abortion precedent in the final section.
“The idea that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment understood the Due Process Clause to protect a right to abortion is farcical… In 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, a majority of the states and numerous Territories had laws on the books that limited (and in many cases nearly prohibited) abortion. It would not doubt shock the public at that time to learn that one of the new constitutional Amendments contained hidden within the interstices of its text a right to abortion,” Thomas wrote.
“As the origins of this jurisprudence readily demonstrate, the putative right to abortion is a creation that should be undone… The fact that no five Justices can agree on the proper interpretation of our precedents today evinces that our abortion jurisprudence remains in a state of utter entropy.”
The Fourteenth Amendment provided an indirect basis for the Roe v. Wade decision when the court took up Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 and saw the “penumbras” of a right to privacy in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth amendments, “formed by emanations from those guarantees that help them give life and substance.” Eight years later, the court ruled against a Texas law in Roe on the grounds that the right to privacy which had emerged from the shadows of the Constitution in cases like Griswold found protection in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.
Slaton has not aimed his bill at the court in the hopes for a challenge to Roe and said plainly that he only hopes for it to work.
“While I welcome the overturning of the unconstitutional Roe v. Wade opinion, we can no longer wait for the Supreme Court to do the right thing,” he stated.
“Texas must protect the right to life for unborn children, and that’s what my bill does.”