Death Penalty for Abortions Becomes Pivotal Issue in GOP Runoff in Texas

A bill that could allow the death penalty for women who receive abortions emerged as a pivotal issue in a state legislative race in Texas.

The legislation, which was filed last year by state Representative Bryan Slaton, would allow women who receive an abortion to be charged with assault or homicide, which carries the state's death sentence.

Texas already has one of the country's most restrictive abortion laws, but some Republicans have sought to add further limitations to the practice—while Democrats and some moderates have strongly opposed the laws.

The battle over how Republicans should handle the issue of abortion has become central in one GOP primary in Texas' 91st congressional district, which contains conservative suburbs north of Fort Worth. In the primary held earlier this month, state Representative Stephanie Klick was forced into a runoff with challenger David Lowe.

The two sparred over the abortion legislation during a Republican women's club luncheon on Friday, which was streamed on Facebook.

"I support Representative Slaton's bill," Lowe said. "Which was probably the strongest pro-life bill to ever enter Texas. The same law that protects Stephanie, you, me—I want those same laws to protect unborn children."

Klick, however, slammed the legislation, saying the idea of "sentencing women to death" is "absolutely abhorrent." Instead, she pointed to existing laws in Texas that have already reduced the number of abortions in the state.

"Abolishing abortion is important, but I think we can do that without giving women the death penalty," she said.

Lowe defended his support of the legislation, saying it has "nothing to do with the death penalty" and that he is "not even a fan of" it.

"Do we all agree that abortion is murder? Absolutely. There should be consequences for it," he said, pointing out that some women in Texas have traveled to other states including Oklahoma for the procedure.

In a statement to Newsweek, Lowe said that he supports "all pro-life bills including those that say unborn children have the same value as born children."

"Representative Klick, throughout her career, has exclusively supported bills that state the unborn are legally less than their born counterparts and has also helped stop legislation that would have banned child gender modification," he wrote.

The bill aims to make abortion a capital offense. It only includes exemptions for pregnancies that seriously threaten the life of the mother, but not rape or incest. It also instructs the state attorney general to "direct a state agency to enforce those laws, regardless of any contrary federal statute, regulation, treaty, order or court decision," according to the Texas Tribune.

Last September, a law went into effect in Texas that banned most abortions in the state.
The law ends abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is typically around six weeks when a woman cannot even know she is pregnant.

During the primary, Klick received 49 percent of the vote—just shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff—while Lowe won 39 percent. Regardless of who wins the runoff, the district is likely to remain in Republican hands, as former President Donald Trump won it by 20 points in 2020. The runoff election is scheduled for May 24.

Newsweek reached out to Klick for comment Sunday morning. This story will be updated with any response.

Updated 03/28/2022 9:14 a.m. ET with statement from Lowe.

Abortion death penalty becomes GOP primary issue
A bill that could allow the death penalty for women who receive abortions emerged as a pivotal issue in a state legislative race in Texas. Above, a woman is seen at a “Right to Life” rally in Dallas on January 15. Brandon Bell/Getty Images