If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortion will be banned in Texas due to statutes already on the books that prompted the Roe lawsuit to begin with, and because of a “trigger law” that went into effect last June.
At least 13 states have trigger laws, according to a Guttmacher Institute analysis.
In 1971, Roe v. Wade challenged Articles 1191-1194 and 1196 of the 1961 Texas Penal Code. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled the Texas statutes were unconstitutional. However, they remain on the books and would go into effect if Roe is overturned.
In the last legislative session, the Texas legislature passed the Human Life Protection Act, HB 1280, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last June. The law would “go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues a judgment in a decision overturning, either fully or in part, the decisions handed down in Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, thereby taking effect to end the practice of abortion to the extent allowable under the new precedent,” a legislative analysis states.
Known as the “trigger law,” it brings Texas full circle to a fight it’s been at the center of since 1971.
After a Supreme Court draft ruling on a Mississippi case was leaked Monday indicating that the court was going to overrule Roe and Casey, Texas lawmakers and a range of groups weighed in.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation said, “The shocking leak of a purported SCOTUS majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade is a direct attack upon the operation and legitimacy of the American judiciary.”
Executive Director and General Counsel of TPPF, Robert Henneke, told The Center Square, “With the upcoming recission of Roe, Americans will have a milestone step towards ending the murder of unborn children. The desperate move to leak the unpublished opinion is the last Hail Mary for the left to use intimidation and threats of violence to save their Golden Calf.”
Last year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton defended the Heartbeat Act before the Supreme Court. Despite numerous challenges, the court refused more than once to halt it from going into effect. Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals effectively ended all legal challenges to Texas’ Heartbeat Act.
After hearing of the leaked draft ruling, Paxton tweeted, “I hope that #SCOTUS returns the question of abortion where it belongs: the States. This is why I led a 24-state coalition in support of MS’s law banning them after 15 wks. I’ll continue to ensure that TX protects the unborn & pray for the end of abortion across our nation.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also tweeted, “If accurate that Roe v. Wade is set to be overturned, this is a great day for innocent babies in the womb. They will finally be safe in Texas and other Republican states. Prayerfully, in time, all states will protect them.”
Texas Right to Life issued a lengthy statement, saying in part, “The atrocity of Roe v. Wade stained the moral fabric of our country for nearly 50 years.” However, it also warned “new attacks on Life will emerge. Already, abortion advocates are calling on Congress to ban states from passing Pro-Life laws.” It noted that Congressional Democrats tried to pass such legislation last year in response to Texas’ Heartbeat Act, but failed.
While Abbott is arguably the most prolife governor Texas has ever had, his Democratic challenger supports universal abortion protections.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke announced he’s leading a rally in Houston on Saturday.
“Join us this Saturday at 11 am in Houston. We’re going to organize. We’re going to rally. And we’re going to right for the rights of our fellow Texans, especially the right to an abortion that is under attack in this state unlike any other place in the country," he said. "And when we do this … we will win. On Saturday we fight for abortion rights. We need everyone there.”
Of the Supreme Court’s leaked draft ruling, he said, “If they want states to decide, then we must elect a governor who will protect a woman’s right to abortion.”
Planned Parenthood Texas Votes said, “We have been preparing for this,” referring to Roe being overturned. “We’re ready for this fight. Abortion is still legal and we will continue to fight across the country – this will not stop us.”
It also encouraged Texans to join its Texas Abortion Access Network for a virtual litigation briefing on Thursday.
Planned Parenthood also announced it’s still offering services nationwide. “If you need abortion care, visit http://abortionfinder.org,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said.
Texas Freedom Network said, “Now more than ever, we need to show up for abortion providers and funds in our communities. Roe is the floor, not the ceiling. Abortion funds will be there when SCOTUS and Congress fail to protect us.”
Because the Heartbeat Act is law, state Rep. Briscoe Cain said, “Whether or not Roe v. Wade is overturned, Texas abortion funds can be prosecuted today. Just need a DA with the guts to do it.”
Both laws signed by Abbott last year, the Heartbeat Act and Human Life Protection Act, “contain a provision reminding the world that the pre-Roe criminal statutes were never repealed by the legislature,” he said. After Roe, “those statutes were recodified and are included herein,” pointing to sections of law regarding prosecuting those funding abortion in Texas.
“It should be noted that the Texas abortion funds don’t have third party standing to invoke Roe’s protections,” he added. “Moreover, no court has ever found a right to fund abortions or to financially assist a woman in killing her unborn child. Also, Roe did not enjoin these statutes.”