Pro-lifers scored a giant victory in Texas last week after the bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks finally went into law. But now a Texas Democrat is challenging what it means to be “pro-life.”
Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr., a Democrat in the state legislature, has introduced a bill that would prohibit enforcement of the abortion legislation until the state abolishes the death penalty. The relevant text of H.B. 45 reads as follows:
Notwithstanding any other law, a law enacted on or after June 1, 2013, that restricts access to abortion or the availability of abortion does not take effect until 60 days after publication in the Texas Register of a finding of fact made by the attorney general that the state has abolished the use of the death penalty as a punishment available on final conviction of a criminal offense.
The push for the legislation comes after Texas executed its 500th death-row inmate since reinstating the death penalty in 1977. And in those 36 years, over half of the executions — 261 — have occurred under Governor Rick Perry during his 13 years of office.
The argument for abolishing capital punishment in Texas is bolstered by compelling data gathered by The Economist that show the broad scope of the state’s death penalty. Texas accounts for more than a third of the nation’s executions since 1976, and is the only state besides Virginia that has executions numbering in the hundreds (with Virginia barely making it over 100).
But regardless of whether or not H.B. 45 passes (it probably won’t), this bill is reintroducing a necessary conversation in the national public square. And it puts pressure on the seeming tension of a pro-life position that supports capital punishment.
Of course, Democrats and other progressives like Dutton seem to not understand (or want to willfully ignore) that there is a difference between killing an innocent fetus and killing a guilty felon.
I do believe that a consistent life ethic calls for one to oppose both abortion and the death penalty, for justice can still be rendered without necessitating the irreversible death of another soul, however depraved. I do at least find sensible the typical conservative’s stance both against abortion and for capital punihsment; there is no question that the far more inconsistent, hypocritical, and perverse position is the one that hails abortion as a woman’s “right to choose” while deriding capital punishment as an affront to human dignity and to the fundamental right to life.
In any case, conversations like these need to continue to happen so that conservatives may reconsider their strong support for the death penalty and so that progressives may reevaluate their backward logic.