A Texas woman is fighting a carpool lane violation. While the story might not seem headline-worthy at first, it is sparking what could be more challenges to state law after the United States Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) recent Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade.
Brandy Bottone was ticketed for driving alone in the carpool lane near Dallas, Texas—and she was 34 weeks pregnant. When she was pulled over, Brandy argued with the Dallas County Sherriff’s Deputy that she was not technically alone because a developing fetus is a “person” as described in the Texas Penal Code. Moreover, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade five days before the traffic stop, reinforcing this stance. In addition, she knew that the state’s laws for carpool use only required two people to be inside the vehicle, with no description of where those people must be seated. Still, the deputy dismissed the argument and wrote the ticket anyway.
Now, she plans on fighting the ticket, which could be the start of a much larger legal fight. In effect, she argues that Texas law – and perhaps laws in other states or at a federal level – cannot “have it both ways” when deciding when a fetus is a person and when it is not.
(You can learn more about Brandy Bottone’s story by clicking here and reading the entire article from CNN.)
Why Overturning Roe v. Wade is Controversial
People on both sides of the issue have argued that the SCOTUS decision was based on political affiliations, religious beliefs, or both. The problem is that the SCOTUS is not a political body and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution asserts that the government must remain separate from religion. Four of the Justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade had also acknowledged that it was a legal precedent set by objective examinations of the law and the Constitution. Given that those laws did not change, it stands to say that their opinions of them did. Again, this is a problem because the SCOTUS is not meant to rule via opinion but rather by a factual review of laws and the intentions of their authors.
Roe v. Wade Controversy Could Affect Countless Laws
Beyond these significant controversies, the overturning of Roe v. Wade is sure to make waves throughout local, state, and federal courts. As already seen in Brandy Bottone’s carpool violation challenge, even seemingly minor laws can be heavily impacted now that states can decide the definition of a “person.” What other laws could now be challenged and eventually rewritten based on a decision that seemingly only intended to change abortion laws?
Three examples of criminal laws that might need to be rewritten now:
- Child endangerment: Could pregnant women be more susceptible now to child endangerment charges that previously would have never been considered? For example, imagine a four-week pregnant woman climbing a wobbly ladder to paint her kitchen. She doesn’t even realize she is pregnant at that point—and she lives in Oklahoma. The state currently has the strictest abortion law, which bans it in virtually every circumstance, including within the first month of pregnancy. Could the state charge her for child endangerment if it found out she was not being safe “around her child?” Furthermore, can pregnant women who do not realize they are pregnant face legal consequences for smoking and drinking?
- Child abduction: If a pregnant woman leaves and goes somewhere without notifying the father of her unborn child, can she be charged with child abduction or kidnapping? If so, do expectant mothers need permission from their unborn children’s fathers before going anywhere? Such a ruling could put some women at severe risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence or murder if they wanted to flee an abuser.
- Miscarriages and child homicide: One of the most significant concerns is that women will start to face felony charges for miscarriages. Few things are as harrowing as a miscarriage, which will emotionally devastate the mother and potentially put her own life in danger. Should a state be allowed to add criminal charges to such a difficult situation because the pregnant mother technically did not protect her child's life?
- Assault: If a pregnant woman is assaulted and battered, regardless of how far along she is in the pregnancy, can the person who harmed her also be charged with assaulting a child? Can someone who commits rape against a pregnant mother also be charged with child sex abuse and be placed on a list of registered child sex offenders?
Setting aside any political opinions on the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the SCOTUS decision has created a kaleidoscope of legal contradictions that can ripple down to municipal levels. As those issues come up in the following months and years, it is sure that at least some of them will send a challenge back up to the U.S. Supreme Court, especially as people face criminal charges for actions and behaviors that previously would have been entirely lawful. Less than a month after the ruling, politicians and the American people are already forced to question whether or not it should be allowed to stand.
Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners believes in protecting the rights of the criminally accused, no matter the details, complications, or controversies surrounding their charges. We are paying close attention to how the overturning of Roe v. Wade could impact federal criminal laws and those in our state of California. Be sure to visit our blog often for important updates that might arise from this developing situation. You can also contact us online at any time if you need the protection of a fierce criminal defense team that will fightfor you and your rights.