The “Coerced Abortion Prevention Act” filed by two Texas lawmakers would make it a crime for any person to coerce a pregnant woman to have an abortion. The bill would also mandate that a physician report to law enforcement — and, where applicable, Child Protective Services — anyone who coerces a woman or pregnant minor into an abortion. It would be considered child abuse if a parent, conservator, or guardian coerced a minor to have an abortion.
Section 25.12 would be added to the Texas Penal Code to make it a Class A misdemeanor for anyone to coerce a pregnant woman to have or seek an abortion. A person who in good faith reports suspected coercion would also be immune from liability in a civil lawsuit.
In the case of a pregnant minor, the Department of Family and Protective Services would be mandated to take any action under Title 5 of the Texas Family Code, including termination of parental rights, against any parent, managing conservator, or guardian, who “is coercing or forcing or attempting to coerce or force a minor to have or seek an abortion.” A physician giving notice would have to inform the parent, conservator, or guardian, that coercion is considered child abuse. The Texas Family Code would be amended to define child abuse to include “coercing or forcing a child to have or seek an abortion.”
Representative Molly S. White (R-Belton) says she filed the bill in the House to address “the problem that over half the abortions in the United States are coerced.” Rep. White is a freshman Republican member of the Texas House. She is from Belton, Bell County, Texas. A companion bill (SB 831) was filed in the Senate by State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham).
The bill, HB 1648, requires the abortion clinic and doctor to screen for coercion, and requires the abortion clinic to post signs about coerced abortion. It mandates that before any anesthesia or sedative is given prior to an abortion, a physician must verbally inform the woman that a person cannot force or coerce her to have or seek an abortion, and that the doctor cannot perform the abortion unless she gives her voluntary and informed consent. Any volunteer or employee of a clinic who learns that a woman or pregnant minor is being forced or coerced to have an abortion must tell the clinic physician.
The physician cannot perform the abortion unless the woman first certifies on a written form in the woman’s native language, that the doctor gave her the required information and materials about coercion. The materials provide that it is a crime for a physician to perform an abortion against her will.
The law would give women who indicate that they are victims of coercion or abuse, access to a private room that has a directory of law enforcement, help hotlines, pregnancy resource centers, and maternity homes, and other assistance programs. It would also provide access to a confidential phone line.
The bill mandates a 72-hour waiting period after a woman has indicated that she has been coerced to have an abortion. An investigation by law enforcement, and if a minor is involved, by Child Protective Services, would have to be done prior to the woman or minor child having the abortion.
Susan Hays, legislative counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told Fox 7 in Austin that the bill was just another way for Texas representatives to put more restrictions on abortion. She said “[Rep. White’s] creating a problem where none exist to push yet more abortion legislation in Texas that is not needed.”
However, Rep. White says that the bill was written to address studies that show coercion is a common theme in women who chose abortion, and lists statistics on her state representative website. A 1986 survey found that 53% of 252 post-abortive women said they were forced to have an abortion. The Medical College of Ohio conducted a study where one-third of the women reported that they were coerced to have an abortion. In 1992, the psychological consequences of abortion was the subject of another study that found that 60% of all abortions in the United States were coerced.
Rep. White is the founder of the nonprofit Women for Life International. She often speaks at conferences and before the media about her personal experience with abortion and about the psychological and physiological effects that abortion has on women, men, and families.
Captain Jeff Williams of the Dallas Department of Public Safety testified before the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking. He told about his experiences of rescuing human trafficking victims. He said captors coerce these women to have abortions in order to keep them working as sex slaves.
This article has been updated with additional information.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.