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Money in Politics

He Supports the Death Penalty for Abortion; Big Companies Are Backing Him

Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) has received donations from national corporations after introducing death-penalty legislation for women who get abortions.


(Image: Screengrab of 2020 Tinderholt campaign ad.)

With the Supreme Court now considering Mississippi’s abortion after 15 weeks, and apparently open to rolling back half a century of reproductive rights, conservative Republicans in other states are pushing even more extreme bills -- and some big corporations are helping them.

The court isn’t expected to rule on MIssissippi’s law until the middle of 2022 but to many legal observers, the writing is on the wall. WIth Bush and Trump appointees dominating the high court, there is a very real chance the law could be upheld -- and open the floodgates for even more extreme laws across the country.

In Texas, Republicans have tried as recently as this year to pass bills that could mean the death penalty for women convicted of getting an abortion.

That proposed bill,The Abolition of Abortion through Equal Protection for All Unborn Children Act, would have made it so that women who get abortions, and physicans who perform them, could be charged with homicide, which is punishable by the death penalty in the lone star state.

One of the biggest proponents of such legislation is Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington). Tinderholt introduced similar bills in 2017 and in the 2019-2020 legislative session. And he has big names in corporate America backing him.

Despite the radical nature of these bills -- not to mention the blatant disregard for basic biology, socioeconomic repercussions, and separation of church and state -- if Republicans get their way with the Mississippi Supreme Court case, bills like Tinderholt’s all around the country have a much easier path to survive legal challenges.

“These kinds of bills serve as proof that the idea of being ‘pro-life’ is a farce, “Elisabeth Smith, director of state policy and Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told TYT. “Anti-abortion politicians like Rep. Tony Tinderholt have no interest in protecting or supporting Texans’ lives and instead want to criminalize and sentence people to death for having or providing an abortion. The decision about whether or not to continue a pregnancy is a fundamental human right—no one should be targeted for making that personal decision about their bodies and lives.”.

Campaign filings show that several well known companies have supported Tinderholt -- and all have continued to do so since he first began seeking the death penalty for women who get abortions.

According to Transparency USA, a non-partisan non-profit that tracks state level campaign finance in 10 different states, Tinderholt’s most notable donor is Altria Group PAC. The giant tobacco company has given Tinderholt a combined $3000 since his first election — $2000 of which was given in July 2020, after he first introduced his bill. The Richmond, Virginia, based company had donated $1000 a little less than a year earlier.

The United Services Automobile Association donated $1000 to Tinderholt through its employee PAC. The San Antonio based company, which employs more 35,000 people, donated to Tinderholt in December 2020, also after he first pursued the death penalty for women who get abortions.

According to Follow The Money, Charter Communications, the parent company of the cable/internet service provider Spectrum, gave $1000 to Tinderholt through its Texas PAC in the 2020 election cycle.

Another big name in the communications sector that has given to Tinderholt is AT&T. According to Follow The Money, the Dallas based company donated a total of $1500 to Tinderholt. AT&T reports that it gave Tinderholt $500 between July and December 2020. The company had given Tinderholt $1000 before he introduced his anti-abortion legislation for the first time. AT&T is the only Fortune 500 company based in the Dallas metropolitan area to donate more than $1000 to his campaign, according to Follow The Money.

In the energy sector, Tinderholt’s only major donor is Phillips 66. The Houston-based oil and gas giant gave $1000 to the Republican lawmaker in 2020.

Tinderholt is far from alone shaping proposed laws around the country that would implement extremist policies on this issue. Comparable bills have been introduced in Wisconsin, Alabama, and North Dakota, among others in the last few years.

The representatives behind these bills, and the large power players funding them, will be the subject of future reports from TYT.

Andy Hirschfeld is a freelance reporter. You can find him on Twitter @andyreports


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