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Pregnant woman given HOV ticket argues fetus is passenger, post-Roe

Brandy Bottone argues that she should not have been ticketed for driving in the HOV lane in North Texas, arguing that her pregnancy constituted an exception. (Screenshot via YouTube/KXAS)
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A pregnant Texas woman who was ticketed for driving in the HOV lane suggested that Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court means that her fetus counted as a passenger and that she should not have been cited.

Brandy Bottone was recently driving down Central Expressway in Dallas when she was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy at an HOV checkpoint to check whether there were at least two occupants per vehicle as mandated. When the sheriff looked around her car last month, she recounted to The Washington Post, he asked, “Is it just you or is someone else riding with you?”

“I said, ‘Oh, there’s two of us,’” Bottone said. “And he said, ‘Where?’”

Bottone, who was 34 weeks pregnant at the time, pointed to her stomach. Even though she said her “baby girl is right here,” Bottone said, one of the deputies she encountered on June 29 told her it had to be “two bodies outside of the body.” While the state’s penal code recognizes a fetus as a person, the Texas Transportation Code does not.

“One officer kind of brushed me off when I mentioned this is a living child, according to everything that’s going on with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. ‘So I don’t know why you’re not seeing that,’ I said,” she explained to the Dallas Morning News, the first to report the story.

Bottone was issued a $215 ticket for driving alone in the two-or-more occupant lane — a citation she told local media she’d be challenging in court this month.

“I will be fighting it,” Bottone, 32, of Plano, Tex., said to The Post.

While the Texas Department of Transportation has not indicated whether it is weighing changing the transportation code, Bottone’s case is one that could move the state into “unchartered territory” after the June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Chad Ruback, a Dallas-based appellate lawyer, told The Post.

Interpretations of the 14th Amendment have been key in extending a slew of legal protections including civil rights, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

“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,” he said. “That being said, it’s entirely possible she could find a trial court judge who would award her for her creativity.”

Ruback added, “This is a very unique situation in American jurisprudence.”

Representatives for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and Texas Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The news comes as all corners of the country are dealing with the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision. President Biden delivered an emotional speech Friday announcing an array of steps aimed at bolstering abortion rights, responding to growing demands from activists that he take bolder and more forceful action. Abortion rights activists generally welcomed Biden’s signing of an executive order to enhance access to reproductive health-care services, but many said it would probably do little for women in states where abortion is banned. The president acknowledged the limits of his executive powers, saying the Dobbs ruling was “the Supreme Court’s terrible, extreme and, I think, so totally wrongheaded decision.”

“What we’re witnessing wasn’t a constitutional judgment,” Biden said. “It was an exercise in raw political power.”

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Texas is among the 13 states that had “trigger bans” designed to take effect once Roe was struck down, prohibiting abortions within 30 days of the ruling.

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Texas’s nearly century-old abortion ban was ruled unconstitutional in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe on June 24 in a 5-4 decision, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) advised that prosecutors could now enforce the 1925 law, which he described as a “100% good law” on Twitter. Abortion rights groups and clinics sued, arguing that it should be interpreted as repealed and unenforceable.

A judge in Harris County, Tex., granted a temporary order last month to allow clinics to offer abortions for at least two weeks without criminal prosecution. Judge Christine Weems (D) ruled that a pre-Roe ban enforced by Paxton and prosecutors would “inevitably and irreparably chill the provision of abortions in the vital last weeks in which safer abortion care remains available and lawful in Texas.”

But the Texas Supreme Court granted an “emergency motion for temporary relief” of Weems’s ruling last week, after Paxton requested the injunction.

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Five days after the Dobbs ruling, Bottone said she was in a rush to pick up her 6-year-old son and decided to drive her GMC Yukon into the HOV lane since she “couldn’t be a minute late.”

As she attempted to argue that the fetus was her second passenger, Bottone told The Post that the deputy wasn’t open to the debate.

“I thought it was weird and said, ‘With everything that’s going on, especially in Texas, this counts as a baby,’” she said. “He kind of waved me on and said, ‘This officer will take care of you.’”

Bottone said that while one of the deputies told her that the ticket would probably get dropped if she fought it, she’s upset that the citation was issued in the first place.

“I thought it was a waste of my time. It just rubbed me wrong,” she said. “I don’t think it was right.”

Bottone emphasized that while she believes women should have a choice on what they do with their bodies, “that’s not saying I’m also pro-choice.” She noted that she also drove in the HOV lane when she was pregnant with her first child, her 6-year-old son.

Ruback told The Post that he is not aware whether Texas or other states would consider such a change to their transportation codes.

“It’s entirely possible that Brandy could petition the representatives in legislature to make that change, but I have not heard about it if it happened,” said Ruback, who is not involved in her case. “My impression is that I think she would be happy if she got out of her traffic ticket. Then again, these are unusual times we’re living in, that’s for sure.”

Texas state Rep. Brian Harrison (R) vowed on Saturday night to introduce legislation to correct the language in the transportation code.

“Unborn babies are persons (meaning they’re also passengers), and should be treated accordingly under Texas laws,” he wrote in a tweet. “Brandy, keep fighting that ticket!”

Bottone maintained to The Post that she hoped the Texas laws would be consistent on how the measures recognize unborn children.

“The laws don’t speak the same language, and it’s all been kind of confusing, honestly,” she said.

She’s due in court on July 20, which is only two weeks before her daughter’s due date of Aug. 3.

“It wasn’t because of Roe v. Wade that I hopped in the HOV lane,” she said. “I just thought of it as me and another person.”

Matt Viser, Caroline Kitchener and Adela Suliman contributed to this report.

Roe v. Wade and abortion access in America

In June 2022 the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which for nearly 50 years has protected the right to abortion. Read the full decision here.

What happens now? The legality of abortion is left to individual states. The Post is tracking states where abortion is banned or under threat, as well as Democratic-dominated states that moved to protect abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade.

Abortion pills: Abortion advocates are concerned a Texas judge’s upcoming abortion pill ruling could halt over half the legal abortions carried out nationwide. Here’s how the ruling could impact access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

Post-Roe America: With Roe overturned, women who had secret abortions before Roe v. Wade felt compelled to speak out. Other women, who were and seeking abortions while living in states with strict abortion bans shared also shared their experience with The Post through calls, text messages and other documentation that supported their accounts. Here are photos and stories from across America since the reversal of Roe v. Wade.