Thursday, July 13, 2006

Death Penalty for Minor Abortion Providers

Wow! I'm beginning to hear the Gestapo footsteps in the distance.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the Texas District and County Attorneys Association claims Texas law is written such that doctors could face the death penalty for performing certain abortions. These would include those abortions performed for a minor without parental consent.

By defining a fetus as "an individual" in 2003, and then making it a criminal act in 2005 to perform certain abortions, legislators might have unintentionally created a scenario in which physicians could be charged with the death of a child younger than 6 a crime subject to capital punishment, according to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

The group has traveled throughout the state to educate prosecutors about changes made in criminal laws in the last regular legislative session and has discussed the abortion situation in its materials as an "expansion of capital murder" and a new way "of committing capital murder."

The Chair of the State Affairs Committee apparently does not agree with this interpretation. Instead, they think these law-breaking doctors (if there have been any cases so far, I'm unaware) "should be punished under the medical Occupations Code. That provides for no greater than a third-degree felony charge." Great! It's only a felony to help a desperate, scared girl.

"We're not advocating one way or another," said Robert Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. "But we're going to talk about it because it's part of the law and people need to know about it."

The presentation on new laws was put together by Shannon Edmonds, a former prosecutor and former assistant general counsel to Gov. George W. Bush, and is based on a solid interpretation of the statutes, Mr. Kepple said. "From what everyone's said, no one had the intention that the law read like this. But it's a pretty clear interpretation," he said.

I see this as indicative of the profound anti-choice bias in Texas legal culture (remember, this is the state Roe v. Wade and Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued it, came out of). It's highly unlikely a prosecution under this interpretation will occur.

Now the Legislature is waiting for the State Attorney General to render an opinion on how prosecutors should read the law.


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