A pregnant woman in northern Texas is planning to fight a citation for driving alone in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. The rule only permits vehicles with two occupants or more to use the lane.
Brandy Bettone from the city of Plano–which is located near Dallas–was ticketed after driving along U.S. Highway 75 and passing through a Sheriff's checkpoint targeting drivers in violation of using the HOV lane.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial decision to overturn Roe v Wade last month, Bettone–who is 34 weeks pregnant–argued against her traffic violation, saying that her unborn child should count as a second body.
Bettone told Dallas Morning News' Dave Lieber:
"I was driving to pick up my son. I knew I couldn't be a minute late, so I took the HOV lane."
"As I exited the HOV, there was a checkpoint at the end of the exit. I slammed on my brakes and I was pulled over by police."
When officers asked Bettone if there were other passengers in the vehicle with her, she told them her unborn daughter was inside the vehicle.
"I pointed to my stomach and said, 'My baby girl is right here. She is a person,'" said Bettone.
The unconvinced officers told her "Oh, no. It's got to be two people outside of the body.'"
Bettone said she spoke to multiple officers who had mixed responses during the encounter.
"One 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."
"He was like, 'I don't want to deal with this....Ma'am, it means two persons outside of the body."
The officer who issued her the $215 citation suggested she could challenge the citation in court where it would "most likely get dropped."
You can watch a news report of her story, here.
Pregnant woman cited for HOV violation says fetus should count as passenger in Texasyoutu.be
Following the SCOTUS decision to reverse Roe v Wade as part of the ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Dallas Appellate Lawyer Chad Ruback told KXAN there was no clear answer. "This is unchartered territory we're in now," he said.
Ruback added, "There is no Texas statute that says what to do in the situation. Texas transportation code has not been amended recently to address this particular situation."
Abortions are now illegal in the state of Texas after the conservative court majority left it up to the individual states to determine the legality of access to reproductive care.
Prior to the decision, Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB8)–also known as the "Heartbeat Bill"–banned abortion after six weeks, the point at which a heartbeat can be detected in an "unborn human individual."
Amy O’Donnell, a spokeswoman for Texas Alliance for Life–an anti-abortion group–said of Bettone's unusual situation:
“While the penal code in Texas recognizes an unborn child as a person in our state, the Texas Transportation Code does not specify the same."
"And a child residing in a mother’s womb is not taking up an extra seat. And with only one occupant taking up a seat, the car did not meet the criteria needed to drive in that lane.”
Bettone held firm in her stance to defend her position.
“This has my blood boiling. How could this be fair? According to the new law, this is a life," she told the Dallas Morning News.
“I know this may fall on deaf ears, but as a woman, this was shocking.”
She told KXAN:
"I really don't feel it's right because one law is saying it one way, but then another law is saying it another way."
Bettone's court date is set for July 20, around the same time she is due.