AUSTIN, Texas - Law enforcement on Tuesday evening alerted members of the Texas Legislature about "a credible threat" to their safety, citing that the concern was targeted at members who voted for the new six-week abortion ban passed by lawmakers earlier this year.
In an email to lawmakers Tuesday, Kevin Cooper, the Department of Public Safety’s chief of government relations, said the agency had received "a CREDIBLE THREAT TO YOUR SAFETY from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a majority of you in the Texas Legislature." Cooper said in a follow-up email that the threat "only applies to those members who may have voted for" the abortion bill that passed as Senate Bill 8 during the regular legislative session that ended in May.
The threat was apparently made on Reddit and included the names of House and Senate members who voted for the legislation. The user threatened to "end each one of you" and said the lawmakers at hand "are not people to me."
That legislation, which went into effect Sept. 1, bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy — when many women don’t yet know they are pregnant. The new law is enforced by private citizens who can sue abortion providers or others "aiding and abetting" the procedure.
In recent weeks, the new abortion law — considered one of the most restrictive in the nation — has drawn national attention and criticism from abortion rights advocates.
After the U.S. Supreme Court refused a request to block the new law before it went into effect, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was suing Texas, arguing that the new restrictions are unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed in a federal district court in Austin, came after abortion rights advocates, providers, and Democratic lawmakers called on the Biden administration to act.
In the meantime, at least two people have filed lawsuits under the new law against a doctor who admitted to performing a now-prohibited abortion.
It was unclear Wednesday whether a credible threat meant that lawmakers involved were in imminent danger. A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement to The Texas Tribune that it "takes all matters of personal security and public safety very seriously and we do not discuss details of ongoing threats and investigations."
Lawmakers facing safety threats over legislation at the Capitol isn’t uncommon, and members from both parties have received various threats related to bills they have supported or voted against during previous legislative sessions.
During the 2017 legislative session, for example, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, was placed under DPS protection after receiving death threats related to legislation he filed to criminalize abortion in Texas.
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