Since the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion for Americans, a number of states now have laws on the books that consider a fetus a legal person. But this begs the question – if a fetus is a person, just how far does that legal definition go?
Well, Brandy Bottone, a pregnant woman in Texas, decided to put this to the test. She got stopped by a police officer while driving in the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane – a lane typically reserved for cars with more than one person. When asked by the officer where her passenger was, she argued that her fetus was a person and, therefore, there were two people in the car – enough to qualify her to drive in the HOV lane.
It isn’t totally clear how strong of a case she has. The Texas penal code recognizes a fetus as a person, but transportation laws in the state aren’t as specific. The HOV-specific law in Texas states that the lane can be used by “a vehicle occupied by two or more people.” Lawyers and legal experts say this case is one example of many that will land in the gray area created by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.
“My baby is right here. She is a person,” Bottone recounted telling the police officer that stopped her. “I thought [getting stopped] was weird and said, ‘with everything that’s going on, especially in Texas, this counts as a baby,” she told the Washington Post. “I will be fighting it.”
“I find her argument creative, but I don’t believe based on the current itineration of Texas Transportation Code that her argument would likely succeed in front of an appellate court,” said Dallas-based appellate lawyer Chad Ruback. “That being said, it’s entirely possible she could find a trial court judge who would award her for her creativity.”
Texas Republican state Rep. Brian Harrison said he’d be introducing legislation that would clarify the law’s language, saying, “Unborn babies are persons (meaning they’re also passengers), and should be treated accordingly under Texas laws.”