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Roe v. Wade is overturned. What does that mean for abortion in Texas?

Texas was one of 13 states to already pass a "trigger law," making most abortions illegal if Roe v. Wade got overturned.
Credit: Jin - stock.adobe.com

DALLAS — The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade in a landmark abortion ruling released Friday, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion and letting states decide on the issue.

While many questions about the immediate impact remain to be answered, we already had an idea of how things are expected to unfold here in Texas.

Before the memo was leaked, Texas was one of 13 states to already pass a "trigger law," making most abortions illegal if Roe v. Wade got overturned.

In a statement immediately after the ruling Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared abortion illegal in Texas.

"Today, the question of abortion returns to the states," Paxton said. "And in Texas, that question has already been answered: abortion is illegal here. I look forward to defending the pro-life laws of Texas and the lives of all unborn children moving forward.”   

Paxton later released a legal advisory on the law, saying the Texas trigger law would go into effect 30 days after a judgment is issued by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued an opinion Friday; not a judgment. 

Paxton's advisory said the judgment would be issued after a window of time in which parties can file an appeal motion. Judgments can typically take about a month to be issued, Paxton said.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick previously touted the state's trigger law as ensuring "if Roe is overturned, abortion is banned in Texas."

 "I am sure the left will fight to allow abortion in Texas," Patrick said. "They will not win that fight."

What is the Texas trigger law? 

Under the Texas trigger law, doctors would face up to life in prison and a $100,000 for performing an abortion. The lone exception to the law would be if a woman's life is in danger. People diagnosed with cancer while pregnant or people suffering from depression or other medical issues would not qualify for the exception.

The mother would not face civil or criminal action, according to the law.

When would the Texas trigger law take effect? 

Texas' total ban on abortions would start 30 days after a decision on Roe v. Wade.

What do we not know about the trigger law? 

Some elements of the trigger law remain unclear, including how it could impact women who have a miscarriage and those who undergo in vitro fertilization, or IVF. The law describes "pregnant" as the moment of fertilization; in IVF, there are often multiple embryos destroyed.

Seema Mohapatra, who teaches health law and bioethics at SMU, told WFAA after the May opinion leak that some definitions in the trigger law still aren’t clear.

“That could definitely put parts of the whole IVF process at legal risk,” she said. “A lot of people are surprised that restrictions on abortion effect people who are seeking to become pregnant.”

According to CDC data, roughly 2% of infant born in the US each year are from IVF.

What is Texas' current abortion law? 

Texas already bans abortion after six weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. That was part of Senate Bill 8 passed last year, which also allows a person to sue anyone who aids or abets an abortion for up to $10,000.

What other states have "trigger" laws? 

Texas is one of 13 states to have a trigger law in the case of a decision on Roe v. Wade. Here are the others:

  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Wyoming 

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