Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) often prides himself on “promoting a culture of life,” but his conflicting stances on abortion are creating a culture of confusion.
For a legislator that spends significant time debating and devoting resources to abortion legislation, Rep. Leach’s position on the issue is unclear – and subject to change.
Leach’s history with abortion-related legislation is insconsistent and erratic. In 2017, Leach co-authored Tony Tinderholt’s (R-Arlington) HB 948, which attempted to criminalize abortions. But in the 2019 session, Leach publicly opposed the same bill (HB 896).
Leach’s flip-flop positioning on an exceedingly important topic has Texans worried legislators do not truly comprehend the bills they are voting on.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Leach admitted when he co-authored HB 948 in 2017, he “did not understand the criminal implications on the woman, and the possibility of that woman being convicted of homicide and subjecting her to the death penalty.”
However, as Chair of the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence committee, Representative Leach chose to consider the 2019 version of the bill in public hearing.
Two days after the hearing on HB 896, Leach released a statement on Twitter where he announced, “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 – legislation that subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liabillity and even the possibility of the death penalty”. The statement prompted Texans and other legislators to question why Leach would allow the bill to be heard in the first place if he never intended to see it to the floor.
With pro-life advocates outraged at Leach’s decision to publicly oppose the criminalization of abortion, Leach focused heavily on his “Born Alive” bill (HB 16). The bill, now headed to Abbott’s desk, will ensure that abortion physicians “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the child’s life and health,” for babies born alive after an attempted abortion. Advocates supported the “Born Alive” bill because it establishes a doctor-patient relationship at birth and strengthens pro-life initiatives. However, the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 already extended legal protection to infants alive after an attempted abortion.
The “Born Alive” bill could have been Leach’s olive branch to pro-life advocates after shifting his viewpoint on an abortion ban, but Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) argued Leach’s HB 16 is harmful to Texans.
“The aim of HB 16 is clear: further stigmatize abortion, misinform the public, intimdate physicians and interfere with a woman’s abillity to seek medical care,” Howard said in a poignant speech from the floor. “To debate this bill… would legitimize its false information. We refuse to waste limited time we have here by entertaining malicious and purely political attacks against women and doctors.”
In another pattern of inconsistency, Rep. Leach was a guest speaker on Rick Roberts’ morning talk show where he discussed the “Born Alive” bill and what he hoped would come of nationwide anti-abortion efforts.
“Ultimately many of these [laws] are going to make their way to the United States Supreme Court, and hopefully, eventually, will result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” said Leach. Does Rep. Leach understand the implications of overturning a federal ruling, or is this another case of misunderstanding?
Rep. Leach has attempted to position himself as both a front-line fighter for anti-abortion efforts and a champion for women, but advocates aren’t buying it anymore. If Leach is as devoted to “promoting a culture of life” as he claims, he needs to have a clear, unwavering understanding of legislation that directly impacts the lives of women.