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Pregnant woman cited for HOV violation says fetus should count as passenger in Texas

PLANO, Texas (KXAN) — A pregnant woman who was pulled over for driving in the HOV lane in Texas says she is fighting the citation, because she believes her unborn fetus should count as a passenger.

Bottone was driving down Central Expressway on June 29 when she was pulled over for an HOV violation, she said.

Bottone, who first told her story to The Dallas Morning News, recalled the officer peering into the vehicle and asking if she had a passenger with her.

“I pointed to my stomach and said, ‘My baby girl is right here. She is a person,’” Bottone told the newspaper.

“I said, ‘Well, not trying to throw a political mix here, but with everything going on, this counts as a baby,’” Brandy Bottone told Dallas-Fort Worth station KXAS, referring to the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Texas penal code recognizes an unborn child as a person, but Texas’ transportation code does not.

Bottone said the Dallas County Sheriff’s officer informed her that the second occupant in the vehicle had to be outside of her body and wrote her a $215 ticket, according to The Dallas Morning News.

“I really don’t think it’s right, because one law is saying it one way, but another law is saying it another way,” she said.

The Plano woman’s court date is roughly the same date as her due date — July 20.

How Roe v. Wade decision affects Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in late June to overturn Roe gave states the power to decide their own restrictions on abortions.

The Texas Tribune reported in early July that the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state can enforce its abortion ban from 1925 civilly, meaning abortion providers could face fines and lawsuits if they perform the procedure. This decision overruled a Harris County district judge who temporarily blocked the old law from taking effect.

Texas also has a trigger law, which automatically bans most abortions in the state. It takes effect 30 days after SCOTUS issues an official judgment, not an opinion, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The law would only allow an abortion if it was necessary to save the life of the pregnant person or if there was a risk of serious impairment because of the pregnancy.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday to protect access to abortion, but it might not have a significant impact in Texas.

The actions he outlined are intended to mitigate some potential penalties those seeking an abortion may face but are limited in their ability to safeguard access to abortion nationwide.

Seema Mohapatra, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said out of all the aspects in Biden’s executive order, the pro-bono attorneys would likely be the most impactful.

“As is right now, I don’t see anything that restricts somebody that is seeking abortion care from leaving the state and getting it. There’s nothing in either the trigger law or SB8,” she said.

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