January 26, 2007
Abbott says no death penalty for illegal abortions

Well, that's a relief.

The death penalty cannot be used against doctors who perform abortions without parental approval or during the third trimester, according to an opinion released Wednesday by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

A state lawmaker asked Abbott to clarify the available punishments after a prosecutors group contended that a law passed in 2005 had the unintended consequence of allowing doctors to be charged with capital murder in those scenarios. In Texas, capital murder is punishable by life in prison or the death sentence.

No doctors have been charged with capital murder, and it's difficult to imagine a prosecutor using that tactic, said Shannon Edmonds, the Texas District and County Attorneys Association official who came up with the interpretation.

But Rep. David Swinford said he wanted Abbott to clarify the law before any cases arose because he did not think the Legislature wanted doctors to be prosecuted in that way.

"We never discussed a capital murder deal at any time, so I know that was not anybody's opinion about the thing," said Swinford, R-Amarillo.

Background on this matter can be found here and here - the latter link is an explanation of the TDCAA's position by its staff counsel and head of publications. As noted by Shannon Edmonds, the AG's opinion is not binding on anyone, so the most direct way to resolve this is to amend the existing laws to clarify them. Well, repealing them would be a nice, neat answer as well, but as that sadly ain't gonna happen, an update would seem to be in order. We'll see what happens.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 26, 2007 to That's our Lege