Pregnant mother in Texas sparks legal debate in claiming unborn child should allow HOV travel in post-Roe era

Brandy Bottone was 34 weeks pregnant at the time she was pulled over on June 29

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A pregnant mother from Plano, Texas is looking to contest a traffic citation she received for driving in a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, as she claims her unborn child should count as a second passenger.

On June 29, officers pulled over Brandy Bottone, who was 34 weeks pregnant at the time, as they suspected her of being the only person in the vehicle that was driving in the HOV lane, FOX 4 of Dallas reported. 

She claimed, however, that her unborn child is a legal person, following a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade.

A highway in Fort Stockton, Texas, U.S., on Friday, April 29, 2022. Photographer: Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A highway in Fort Stockton, Texas, U.S., on Friday, April 29, 2022. Photographer: Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Photographer: Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"He starts peeking around. He's like, 'Is it just you?' And I said, 'No there's two of us?'" Bottone told the Dallas Morning News.

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She then told the officer that she had a right to drive in the HOV lane because she was not alone in the car.

"My baby girl is right here. She is a person," she told the officer, pointing to her stomach. Bottone was initially in the HOV lane as she was hurrying to pick up her 1-year-old son.

Bottone also cited the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization and claimed her unborn child was a separate, unique individual in the car, FOX 4 reported.

"And then I said, 'Well (I'm) not trying to throw a political mix here, but with everything going on (with Roe v. Wade), this counts as a baby,’" Bottone said, per the Dallas Morning News.

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The unconvinced officer said HOV lane rules require two persons "outside the body" and subsequently issued Bottone a $215 citation. He reportedly told her that if she contests the ticket, then it will likely be dropped, Dallas Morning News reported.

While an unborn child is recognized as a person under Texas penal code, the state's transportation code differs, KXAS-TV reported.

The legality of the traffic stop immediately baffled legal experts.

Pro-choice and pro-life demonstrators rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday morning, June 20, 2016. 

Pro-choice and pro-life demonstrators rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday morning, June 20, 2016.  (8Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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Dallas appellate lawyer Chad Ruback described the case as "unchartered territory" in a post-Roe country.

"Different judges might treat this differently. This is unchartered territory we're in now," Ruback said, per the report. "There is no Texas statute that says what to do in this situation. The Texas Transportation Code has not been amended recently to address this particular situation. Who knows? Maybe the legislature will in the next session."

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Bottone intends to fight the ticket at court date, set for July 20, which is near her due date.