A pregnant woman in Texas told police her unborn child counted as an extra passenger after she was charged with driving alone in a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, providing a potentially smart defense for motorists navigating the legal landscape. after the Supreme Court strike of nationwide abortion rights last month.
Brandy Bottone of Plano, Texas, tried to fight a ticket for driving with just one passenger in an HOV lane — which requires at least two people in the car — by claiming that her unborn baby should count as her second passenger .
†[The officer] starts to peek around. He says, ‘Is it just you?’ And I said, ‘No, there’s two of us?’” Bottone told NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth. ‘And he said, ‘Well, where’s the other person?’ And I went, ‘Here,’” pointing to her stomach.
On June 29, Bottone, who is 34 weeks pregnant, was driving on US Highway 75 to pick up her son.
To avoid being late to get him, Bottone took an HOV lane, but a patrol officer pulled her over as she tried to exit the freeway, the Dallas Morning News first reported.
An officer approached Bottone’s car and asked where her second required passenger was. When Bottone tried to argue that her unborn baby should count as the extra rider given the Texas abortion ban after overthrowing federal abortion protections, the officers disagreed.
“An officer kind of waved me off when I said this is a live child, according to everything that’s going on with the overthrow of Roe v Wade,” Bottone told the officer, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that granted federal abortion rights. “So I don’t know why you don’t see that,” I said.
The officer told Bottone that to drive in the HOV lane, she needed her extra passenger outside her body.
The officer eventually gave Bottone a $275 ticket, telling her that if she challenged the citation in court, it would likely be withdrawn.
“This makes my blood boil. How can this be fair? Under the new law, this is a life,” Bottone told the Morning News. “I know this may have fallen on deaf ears, but as a woman, this was shocking.”
Bottone was detained by a deputy sheriff of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, who is employed by the Texas Department of Transportation to enforce HOV rules on US 75, the Morning News reported.
While the Texas criminal code recognizes an unborn baby as a person, current transportation laws in the state do not.
Legal experts have argued that Bottone’s argument raises a unique legal gray area that the courts are becoming familiar with following the rollback of Roe v wade.
“Different judges might handle this differently,” Dallas attorney Chad Ruback told the local NBC affiliate. “This is unexplored territory that we are in right now.
“There is no Texas statute that says what to do in this situation. The Texas transportation code has not changed recently to address this particular situation. Who knows? Perhaps the legislature will do that in the next session.”
But Bottone said the state shouldn’t be able to get it both ways.
“I really don’t think it’s right because one law says it one way, another law says it another way,” Bottone told the NBC station.