Troopers lead a woman out the Capitol's east doors Friday evening.

Guys Get Off Free with Tinderholt’s Abortion Ban

Tinderholt wants to police what 'consenting adults' do in the bedroom, but his bill only puts one of those consenting adults behind bars: the pregnant one.


State Representative Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington.
State Representative Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington.

A state representative from Arlington has filed a bill he’s calling the Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act, but a better name for it would be the Double-Speak, Double Standards Act.

Republican Representative Tony Tinderholt, whose grasp on reality could at any moment be snatched away from him by a light breeze, has told the Texas Observer that the bill — again, it’s called the Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act — does not say “that abortion will be abolished and illegal.”

The bill would make ending a pregnancy illegal under the part of the state criminal code that dictates charges for capital murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

It’s the trickle-down Trump effect: Deny that the thing you’re doing does the thing you say it does, which you claim it doesn’t do.

This legislation is ridiculous for a host of reasons, among them its blatant flout of constitutional precedent, but more than anything, it lays bare the inherent misogyny of the anti-abortion movement. The text of the bill specifically identifies physicians and pregnant people as liable to be criminally prosecuted for the termination of a pregnancy at any stage, but is notably silent on what, if any consequences, the non-uterine party involved in creating a pregnancy might face.

Tinderholt has said that he thinks the bill will encourage pregnant people to be less irresponsible when it comes to having sex. He wants to police what “consenting adults” do in the bedroom, but his bill only puts one of those consenting adults behind bars: the pregnant one. (And in fact, his “consenting adults” line is subterfuge in and of itself; pregnant people who are raped and who choose not to carry to term could still face murder charges under his bill.)

This worldview — that it’s mostly irresponsible sluts who get pregnant or that, if they’re raped, they ought to be grateful their rapist gave them the gift of a fetus — is pervasive in the anti-abortion movement. Tinderholt’s just the latest and loudest of a cadre of conservative Republican lawmakers who seem curiously unmotivated to penalize the penile party.

Troopers lead a woman out the Capitol's east doors Friday evening.
State troopers detain a woman at the state Capitol during a 2013 protest of abortion restrictions.  Patrick Michels

I’m sure the representative’s oversight has nothing to do with the fact that Tony Tinderholt himself will never personally face the prospect of an unwanted or untenable pregnancy growing within his body. Eve is the original sinner, after all, and Adam a helpless bystander who cannot be held responsible for his actions.

Tinderholt is correct, however, that his bill won’t abolish abortion in Texas. Abortion is as old as pregnancy, and millions of people can recount personal stories, many of them tragic and traumatic, of obtaining illegal abortions in this country before Roe v. Wade.

If Tinderholt, or anyone else, wants to reduce the number of abortions in Texas, medical and social science has provided us an easy and affordable way to do so: by making sex education and contraception widely available. Instead, Tinderholt’s party, through its deadly obsession with defunding Planned Parenthood, refusing a federal Medicaid expansion and shuttering reproductive health clinics from El Paso to Shreveport, has simply ensured that more people will be pregnant when they don’t want to be, or can’t be.

The need for abortion will exist as long as pregnancy exists; the ability to end a pregnancy safely and consensually is both necessary and a social good. I don’t expect Tinderholt to agree with me, but I do expect him, and anyone who claims to be “pro-life,” not to blatantly discriminate against half the people in this state —and their doctors — by suggesting they should face murder charges, and very possibly the death penalty, for exercising a constitutional right.