Unintended consequences

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Waco Tribune reports that a Texas parental consent law may make illegal abortions a capital crime:
Roberts spoke about a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in June at a Fort Worth church school that requires parental consent before minors can have abortions and places additional restrictions on late-term abortions.

In relation to those changes, Roberts noted that the Legislature two years ago altered the definition of an individual in homicide statutes from a human being who has been born and is alive to a human being who is alive, including an unborn child at every stage of gestation, from fertilization until birth.

There was debate when the definition of individual was changed about whether the effect would make abortion the equivalent of murder. So lawmakers took particular care to write into the homicide statute that a lawful medical procedure performed with consent by a physician or other licensed health-care provider, if the death of the unborn child was the intended result, is an abortion. That provided a lawful defense or exception to homicide laws.

Continuing to connect the statutory dots, however, Roberts told local prosecutors that there is no such defense provided for a doctor who performs an unlawful medical procedure, such as an abortion on a minor without parental consent.

So, in effect, the doctor would have killed a child younger than 6 in an illegal abortion and thereby subjected himself or herself to potential prosecution for capital murder, Roberts told the dumbfounded audience.

This is a case study of sorts on how changing one code can have dramatic effects on other codes that actually reference those statutes, Roberts said. I presented it as an unintended consequence on a change to the civil code, but you will have to talk to your local prosecutors there about how they will handle those situations. I just presented what the Legislature has done.


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It was Intended

Your logic makes sense but I disagree with the title. It seems to me that the people who passed the law did intend to make abortion a capital crime as they think/feel/believe that it is murder of a human.

So that law does just what I think they ment it to do.

That could be the case, but my intuition is not. Most anti-abortion laws don't make abortion a capital crime because it's considered a political loser. People don't like abortion, but most people don't hate it as much as murder.

As someone who DOES consider abortion to be murder, and a political activist in Austin, I can state that if this was the intent, then it was really, really concealed. I certainly heard nothing to this effect. The prolife lobby in this state is quite adept, and you are correct that there is no political support in Texas for making illegal abortions capital crimes.

The lead prolife lobbyist is a devout Catholic, and the Catholic church has all but forbiden its members to support the death penalty.

So the law will be challenged (as always). It will be interesting to see what happens. I expect that the courts will hold that there was no legislative intent to make illegal abortions capital, and therefore to not present the option to the jury.

I think the real story is that the law is too complicated. 'Nuff said.


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