Police again step in as Texas lawmaker halts abortion bill
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas sheriff’s department said Thursday it had “security concerns” over social media posts targeting a Republican lawmaker, who has come under fire by some conservative activists after blocking a bill that could lead to a woman being charged with homicide if she has an abortion.
It marks the second time this month that Texas law enforcement has taken protective measures involving Republican lawmakers, who in both cases have been blamed by frustrated groups for torpedoing divisive measures, first over guns and now abortion.
Last week, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said a gun-rights advocate went to his family residence over displeasure that lawmakers weren’t seriously considering efforts to legalize carrying a handgun without a permit. State troopers met the man at the home of Bonnen, who said lawmakers and their families were being “incessantly harassed by fanatical gun rights activists.”
The latest episode involves Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach, who earlier this week refused to advance the anti-abortion bill in his committee. He said Thursday that local authorities were monitoring his house near Dallas but declined further comment, referring questions to authorities.
“We have notified Representative Jeff Leach that we are currently looking into some security concerns related to him and are taking appropriate measures,” Sgt. Nick Bristow of the Collin County sheriff’s office said in a statement.
He would not elaborate about what measures sheriff’s deputies have taken or provide details about the nature of the posts.
Leach, who chairs the House committee that held a public hearing on the measure, known as House Bill 896, said in a statement posted on Twitter that the bill would not advance. Prominent anti-abortion groups in Texas have also come out against the measure, including the Texas Alliance for Life, which noted that no states prosecuted women before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“My commitment to advancing the pro-life cause is stronger than ever and that’s why I cannot in good conscience support House Bill 896,” Leach said.
Leach is a former member of the Texas House Freedom Caucus that has pushed contentious bills over social issues, gun rights and anti-vaccination measures. But he left the caucus this year, which came only months after narrowly winning re-election victory in suburban Dallas, where Democrats in 2018 made inroads in historically conservative districts.
For years, Texas has expanded gun rights and enacted tough anti-abortion laws like few other states. But following a rough midterm election in November for Republicans, state leaders have cooled on such legislation and are instead prioritizing bread-and-butter issues including school funding and tax relief. The shift has frustrated some conservative supporters, who for a decade have driven the Texas GOP further right.
The anti-abortion bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Tony Tinderholt would direct the state to enforce the measure regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order or court decision. Under the bill, mothers and doctors involved in abortion procedures would be subject to criminal penalties.
Tinderholt declined to comment Thursday. He instead referred a reporter to a Facebook video he posted Wednesday night, in which he says the “bottom line is that we want to provide equal protection for all life in and out of the womb and we want equal treatment for the people who take that life.”