Reference Roundup: Texas Abortion Laws

June 24, 2022


Abortion laws have been in the news recently because the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision about abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24th, 2022. The court’s decision overruled Roe v. Wade and allows states to prohibit abortions. Texas is one of several states that passed "trigger" laws recently that would criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade were overruled. 

Since Roe v. Wade, the Texas Legislature has enacted laws that restrict or regulate abortion in different ways. Texans may have questions about how these laws affect abortion in Texas, especially in light of the new ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. We've created several Legal FAQs on abortion that may help answer some of these questions.

The legislature passed several laws during the 87th Regular Session that restricted abortion. One is House Bill 1280, the Texas "trigger" law. Another is Senate Bill 8, which bans abortions after a "fetal heartbeat" is detected.

The Texas Trigger Law

House Bill 1280 is known as Texas's "trigger law." This bill has a "trigger" provision that bans abortion 30 days after a judgment issued by the U.S. Supreme Court or Amendment to the United States Constitution relating to abortion.

Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturns Roe v. Wade, it is expected that the trigger provision will take effect on the 30th day after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its judgment. Attorney General Ken Paxton released an advisory letter on June 24, 2022, stating his office will provide an effective date once the Supreme Court's judgment is final.

Read more about HB 1280 in our FAQ, Does Texas have trigger laws related to abortion?

Senate Bill 8

Known as the Texas Heartbeat Bill, Senate Bill 8 prohibits abortions after the detection of a "fetal heartbeat" and created criminal penalties for physicians who perform abortions after this period. Read more about SB 8 in our FAQ, What does Senate Bill 8 say about abortions?

Is abortion illegal in Texas?

The Texas criminal abortion laws that were ruled unconstitutional in Roe v. Wade were never formally repealed by the Texas Legislature. They are currently found in the Texas Revised Civil Statutes, Articles 4512.1 – 4512.6.

The prohibitions on abortion in Chapter 170A of the Texas Health & Safety Code are expected to go into effect in the near future as set out in HB 1280. These prohibitions restrict abortion, except in certain narrow situations, and create criminal, civil, and professional penalties for people who perform abortions outside of these restrictions. On June 24, 2022, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory letter stating that prosecutors "may choose to immediately pursue criminal prosecutions" under these laws.

We've addressed this in more detail in our FAQ, Is abortion illegal in Texas?

Where can I find Texas laws on abortion?

Abortion was illegal in Texas up until 1973 when the Roe v. Wade ruling said that Texas's laws criminalizing abortion were unconstitutional. After 1973, Texas passed a variety of laws restricting abortion in different ways. Our FAQ, Where can I find Texas laws on abortion? highlights some of these laws and explains where to find abortion laws before and after Roe v. Wade.

Because the Supreme Court decision was announced very recently, the legal status of abortion in Texas may remain unclear for a period of time. The Attorney General's advisory letter from June 24, 2022, provides more context about what happens next.

We'll provide updates with more information as it becomes available. If you have a question about finding an abortion law, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.

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