Texas abortion 'trigger' law allowing criminal, civil penalties set to go into effect in August

The law targets doctors and medical providers, but not women seeking abortions.

July 27, 2022, 4:20 PM

Texas' "trigger" law, which raises the penalty for performing abortions, is set to go into effect on Aug. 25, after the U.S. Supreme Court formally issued its judgement overturning Roe v. Wade on Tuesday.

"Trigger" laws only take effect when certain events occur, in this case the law required a judgement overturning Roe, which had established a constitutional right to abortion at the federal level, or a case establishing states' right to regulate abortion.

The so-called trigger law will establish civil and criminal penalties for performing banned abortions and prohibit nearly all abortions, with few exceptions including cases where a pregnancy poses a risk of death or serious impairment of a pregnant woman. The law will not apply to individuals seeking or attempting abortions, according to the law's documentation.

PHOTO: Staff at Houston Women's Reproductive Services watch a livestream of President Joe Biden delivering remarks before signing an executive order which seeks to safeguard abortion access, in Houston, Texas, on July 8, 2022.
Two members of the staff at Houston Women's Reproductive Services, which no longer provides abortion care, watch a livestream of President Joe Biden delivering remarks before signing an executive order which seeks to safeguard abortion access although is expected to have a limited impact, in Houston, Texas, on July 8, 2022.
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters, FILE

The law criminalizes any attempt by a medical professional to perform, induce or attempt an abortion, making it a second-degree felony. However, if the pregnancy is successfully aborted, the offense becomes a first-degree felony, according to the law.

According to the Texas Penal Code, the punishment for a first-degree penalty could be up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The penalty for a second-degree felony is up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The law also states that the Texas attorney general "shall file an action" seeking civil damages for those who perform abortions of no less than $100,000 per abortion performed, in addition to the possibility of requesting attorneys' fees and costs incurred.

Any physician or provider who attempts, performs or induces an abortion could also have their medical license revoked. Medical licenses are regulated at the state level, not by the federal government.

While the court had released its opinion overturning Roe in June, it formally issued its judgement in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health on Tuesday, allowing so-called trigger laws in states, including Texas, to take effect.

The Texas "trigger" law, passed in September 2021, will go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issued its judgement, according to the Texas State Law Library.

Another Texas law in place, called SB8, places a near-total ban on abortions at 6 weeks and allows people to sue anyone who "aids or abets" an illegal abortion, to collect a bounty of at least $10,000.

Idaho and Tennessee also previously enacted laws that would ban nearly all abortions 30 days after the Supreme Court issues its judgment overturning Roe.

PHOTO: In this June 24, 2022, file photo, abortion rights activists march to the Austin State Capitol after the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the US Supreme Court, in Austin, Texas.
In this June 24, 2022, file photo, abortion rights activists march to the Austin State Capitol after the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the US Supreme Court, in Austin, Texas.
Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

At least 13 states have ceased nearly all abortion services. Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas have near-total bans. Abortion providers in Arizona and Wisconsin have suspended abortion services due to confusion over the law. Georgia, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee have banned abortions after embryonic cardiac activity is detected -- which is generally around six weeks -- before many women know they are pregnant.

Earlier this month, Texas' attorney general sued President Joe Biden's administration after it issued an executive order telling doctors to perform abortions in medical emergencies.

-ABC News' Devin Dwyer and Ely Brown contributed to this report.

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