Texas bill proposes to punish infanticide with mere two-year maximum in jail


A Texas bill proposing to reduce significantly the penalty for the murder of young infants by their mothers conveys the message that newborns and infants are "less valuable people," a Texas pro-life leader warns.

The introduced version of House Bill 3318 adds the offense of "infanticide" to the Texas penal code. It defines infanticide as a state jail felony "if the person willfully by an act or omission causes the death of a child to whom the person gave birth within the 12-month period preceding the child’s death" and if the person’s judgment was impaired as a result of the effects of giving birth or the effects of lactation following the birth.

After revision by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the latest version said the defendant may "raise the issue" whether the defendant’s judgment was impaired by the effects of giving birth or by the effects of lactation.

If such impairment is proven, the offense is categorized as a state jail felony.

In contrast to a first degree felony, a state jail felony carries a maximum sentence of two years and a minimum of 180 days, the Austin American-Statesman reports. At present, the murder of anyone under the age of six brings a capital murder charge.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston). Though Rep. Farrar is a self-described Catholic, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has praised her as "a fierce supporter of family planning and reproductive choice."

Rep. Farrar acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to be voted on by the House floor.

"I think that we got this far is pretty significant," she told the American-Statesman.

The bill is reportedly aimed at women who show symptoms of postpartum psychosis. The condition was cited in the case of Andrea Yates, a Texas mother who drowned her five children six months after giving birth to her youngest.

George Parnham, a Houston attorney who represented Yates, helped write the measure.

"When the Andrea Yates case happened, honestly, I thought she should be thrown under the prison," Farrar told the Austin-American Statesman. "But then I came to learn more about what the condition was ... when you're looking at culpability, you have to consider the mental state, and that mental state was caused by hormones that were triggered by the pregnancy."

Dave Welch of the Texas Pastor Council said the bill goes too far because it mentions only "effects of birth or lactation" rather than a specific condition.

"That opens a door you can drive a Mack truck through," Welch said.

CNA spoke with Elizabeth Graham, Director of Texas Right to Life, who in a Wednesday e-mail warned that Texas families could be "jeopardized" by the bill.

"With the penalties for murder lessened, the state would be sending that the lives of newborns and infants are less valuable people than others. However, this is consistent with Representative Farrar’s unblemished pro-abortion record through which she has demonstrated her belief that women should be free to dispose of their unborn children; now she is extending that belief to children who are born," she said.

Graham claimed the bill was part of the abortion lobby’s attempt to "dehumanize segments of the human family."

Graham noted that Rep. Farrar had also spoken against the state’s Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

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"If Rep. Farrar were sincerely interested in helping women, she would also recommend counseling, medical, and psychiatric assistance to women who are murdering their small children due to emotional and hormonal imbalances," Graham told CNA.

She encouraged pro-life advocates to call or e-mail their state legislators to oppose the bill.

H.B. 3318 must now pass through the House Calendar Committee, which is mostly Republican. Farrar said she plans to address the issue in the next legislative session if it does not pass the committee.



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