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A new bill introduced in the Texas state legislature would legally include a child in the womb as a second person in high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.
State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) introduced House Bill 521, which entitles a pregnant driver to use any HOV lane in the state, for the 2023 session this week.
The bill’s text states, “An operator of a motor vehicle who is pregnant is entitled to use any high occupancy vehicle lane in this state regardless of whether the vehicle is occupied by a passenger other than the operator’s unborn child.” It is unclear how police would be expected to enforce the law.
The proposed bill comes after Texas woman Brandy Bottone was pulled over in an HOV lane on Central Expressway in Dallas in June and told police that her unborn child should be counted as a second person.
When Bottone was asked who else was in the car, she told WFAA that she pointed to her belly and said, “Uh, this!” She argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade meant that her child should be included as one of two people in her car.
Bottone later received a second ticket for the same offense after her first ticket was dismissed without a court hearing, according to NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.
“Based on a review of the facts and circumstances of this case, and the applicable law, the state moves to dismiss the case,” the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office reportedly said.
The twice-ticketed mother was asked for her response to the proposed legislation in a report by the Dallas News on Thursday.
“Wow! This is a wonderful step forward for the women of Texas,” Bottone stated. “Pregnancy is stressful, but your anxiety is through the roof without the hassle of being stopped and questioned if another life is on board is a step in the right direction. Baby Charlotte and I are rooting that the bill gets passed and other states follow suit.”
Bottone gave birth to her daughter Charlotte in August.
The Texas legislature returns to session on January 10, where Cain’s bill will be among many under consideration. If approved, the current draft states that the law would go into effect on September 1, 2023.
Even if the bill does pass, it will not guarantee fetal personhood in the state. Texas proposed a fetal personhood bill in 2021 that would include implications regarding the treatment of frozen embryos used as part of in vitro fertilization procedures.
With strong Republican wins in the state legislature across Texas during this month’s election, House Bill 521 has a reasonable chance of passing as part of showing strong support for pro-life legislation in the state. Texas has already passed a fetal heartbeat bill that bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.