Texas State Rep. Briscoe Cain of the Houston-area House District 128 recently filed a bill that would allow pregnant women to drive in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes without an additional passenger.
Cain’s bill states that a pregnant woman is “entitled to use any high occupancy vehicle lane” in the Lone Star State, “regardless of whether the vehicle is occupied by a passenger other than the operator’s unborn child.”
When The Dallas Express asked about why he chose to file the bill, Cain’s answer was not about the HOV lanes, but rather the unborn child.
“My bill furthers the undeniable truth that an unborn child is a person and should be treated like one — no matter the stage of development,” Cain said. “Our laws should reflect that.”
Cain told The Dallas Express that he has thought about filing the bill for years, and his original inspiration came from California. In a Los Angeles case dating back to 1987, a mother got her citation for driving in a carpool lane with no one in her passenger seats dismissed after arguing she was pregnant.
HOV lanes are for vehicles with two or more occupants, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
As reported in The Dallas Express, the issue of whether a fetus qualifies as an occupant was recently raised in Texas when Plano resident and then-pregnant woman Brandy Bottone was pulled over by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department back in June and tried to get out of a ticket.
The deputy informed Bottone of HOV-lane requirements, and she responded by pointing at her belly. She asserted that a fetus is a living human being under the Texas penal code and that the same should be true of the transportation code, which does not offer any determination.
“I pointed to my stomach and said, ‘My baby girl is right here. She is a person,’” Bottone told The Dallas Morning News. The deputy seemed to disagree and gave Bottone a traffic ticket. She said she intended to fight it, frustrated with the inconsistency in the law.
Given that the overturning of Roe v. Wade has given states the power to further legislate rights for “fetal personhood,” Cain’s bill could actually have a shot at passing, according to Dan Solomon of Texas Monthly, because it is narrowly tailored to address an actual practical gap in the law.
Joe Pojman, president of the anti-abortion organization Texas Alliance for Life, explained to The Texas Tribune in September that he himself was not in favor of a fetal personhood law in Texas because he felt fetuses were already adequately protected by a smattering of references in various parts of the Texas legal code.
While lawmakers in several states have championed fetal personhood laws, only Georgia’s and Arizona’s have passed, and Arizona’s is currently blocked by a judge who found it to be too vague.
This is not the first time such a bill has been introduced in Texas. Texas Rep. Steve Toth filed a bill in the last legislative session seeking to provide due process to a fetus, but the bill died in committee.
Bottone told The Dallas Morning News, “Wow! This is a wonderful step forward for the women of Texas. 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.”
Cain’s proposed legislation on its own would not address fetal personhood, as the language of the bill only addresses the status of the driver as a lawful user of the HOV lane, not the status of the fetus as a lawful person who is riding in the car.