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The United States Supreme Court has issued its formal judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, paving the way for Texas’s “trigger law” banning nearly all abortions to come into effect on August 25.
The law will increase the criminal and civil penalties associated with abortion, but the procedure is already virtually banned in Texas under an old law that was in effect before the High Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973.
The state’s two dozen abortion clinics stopped offering abortions almost immediately after the court struck down Roe v. Wade in late June, fearing criminal prosecution under those pre-Roe laws, which make it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison for providing or “providing the means” for an abortion.
These laws are separate from the trigger law, which the legislature passed in 2021. This law, which is triggered by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, increase the sentences for performing an abortion to life in prison. The trigger law also states that the attorney general “must” bring a lawsuit seeking a civil penalty of at least $100,000 per abortion performed.
The pre-Roe law and trigger law provide only narrow exceptions to save the life of the pregnant patient. The trigger law specifically exempts the pregnant patient from prosecution.
While other states’ trigger laws went into effect immediately, Texas’s was written to go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issued its formal judgment, after which no new hearings or appeals can be filed. . This process usually takes about a month.
Immediately after the pre-Roe laws went into effect, a handful of abortion clinics filed a lawsuit seeking to block their enforcement. Although they won a temporary restraining order, the Texas Supreme Court later ruled that the laws could be enforced civilly while the challenge worked its way through the courts.
No known legal challenges have been filed to prevent the trigger law from taking effect.
In a notice released Wednesday, Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office “stands ready” to help local prosecutors enforce the new sentences.
“Texas law in a post-Roe world has already been written,” Paxton wrote. “Now that the Supreme Court has finally overturned Roe, I will do everything in my power to protect mothers, families and unborn children, and to uphold state laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature. .”
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