U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Arlington, says on a video released by an abortion rights group that women commit murder if they have an abortion and should “absolutely” be punished.
Reproaction, an abortion rights advocacy group, published a video May 30 asking Wright what he thought of women going to jail for self-managed abortions.
“Of course they should,” Wright says after saying he considers that by having an abortion “they committed murder.”
Asked if women should be punished in general for getting an abortion, Wright says, “Absolutely.”
The video ends with one of his staff members cutting off the conversation.
The Dallas Morning News reached out to Wright’s office and received a comment hours later. In a statement, he reiterated his view that “abortion is the taking of an innocent life” and insisted that — despite what he said in the video — his comments were not directed at women who receive abortions.
“My remarks were directed to those who perform abortions. Those who perform the abortions should be held responsible,” he said in the statement.
Wright was elected to Congress last fall, replacing longtime GOP Rep. Joe Barton in the district that stretches from Arlington to Ellis and Navarro counties.
The Trump administration on Wednesday ended funding of medical research that uses fetuses of aborted babies. Wright tweeted his support: “Body parts of babies that have been aborted will no longer be used for research.”
Renewed attention on abortion laws has unfolded this year, as states under Republican control look to impose new restrictions. Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana have passed laws banning abortions after six weeks of a woman’s pregnancy.
Alabama’s governor signed a law banning abortions at any point in pregnancy unless the woman’s health is at risk.
In Texas, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, authored legislation that would ban abortion regardless of federal laws or court decisions and subject women and physicians involved in abortion procedures to criminal penalties.
The bill did not advance to a vote in the House.
Aimee Arrambide, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a prepared statement that Wright and Tinderholt do not “represent the values of North Texans.” She referenced a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday showing Texans support abortion access.
“North Texans deserve better than anti-abortion extremists who want to punish women for having abortions., she said.
Calling for the punishment of a woman is not the traditional response from abortion opponents.
Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, said it’s hard to tell if the idea is becoming trend. With a combination of state legislatures moving to the right and Donald Trump taking office, abortion opponents feel momentum to overturn Roe v. Wade and that “they can say what they actually believe.”
Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life, opposes criminalizing women for having abortions.
“Women fearing prosecution are unlikely to seek timely treatment in the event of complications from the abortion, potentially compounding the loss of the child with the loss of her life,” Wright wrote in April. “Such tragedies would be exploited by abortion advocates and the media — a losing narrative pre-Roe and now.”
Kyleen Wright told The News she has known Ron Wright for 30 years. They are not related. She said she did not vote for him in the primary because she believed he was aligning himself with “strident groups.” She said that Wright and Tinderholt are friends but that she does not know how Wright came to have these views.
“This is a position I was not aware he held, and I want to talk with him more,” she said.