AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — After decades of fighting to make abortion illegal in Texas, Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion activists have achieved their goal. Looking forward, members of the movement to end abortion are split between further criminalizing fellow Texans who seek the procedure out of state or reforming from within to make the Lone Star State more hospitable for pregnant people.
Three separate laws provide the legal groundwork for Texas’ current abortion restrictions.
First is Senate Bill 8. Passed by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Greg Abbott last year, the bill prohibits abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy. Since the law was passed before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, the law shifted enforcement onto citizens, not the government, as a means to skirt judicial review. Citizens enforce the law through civil lawsuits against anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion in the state and can be awarded a minimum of $10,000 per suit.
The second statute is a 1925 law that outright bans abortion in the state and carries a punishment of up to five years in prison for providing the procedure. Once defunct under the precedent of Roe v. Wade, the statute was never repealed by the Texas Legislature. After a battle between abortion providers and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the law may once again be enforced.
Finally, the state passed a trigger law banning the procedure set to take effect on Aug. 25. Under this law, anyone found to have given an abortion faces first-degree felony charges, which carry up to life in imprisonment and a fine up to $10,000. Additionally, the law gives the attorney general the authority to bring forth civil actions against anyone found to have violated the law, which may result in a fine of no less than $100,000.
The only exception to these laws would be in the event of a medical emergency such as an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.
Despite these wins for anti-abortion lawmakers, they are looking ahead toward the future of eliminating access to abortion for Texas residents.
The Texas Freedom Caucus is a group of 12 of the most conservative members of the Texas Legislature. After a Dallas law firm promised to reimburse travel expenses to people who leave the state to get an abortion, the caucus sent a letter, informing them of their plans to introduce legislation next session to punish such aid.
“It will prohibit any employer in Texas from paying for elective abortions or reimbursing abortion-related expenses—regardless of where the abortion occurs, and regardless of the law in the jurisdiction where the abortion occurs,” wrote Caucus Chairman Mayes Middleton, a Republican from Galveston. “This provision will impose felony criminal sanctions on anyone who pays for these abortions to ensure that it remains enforceable against self-insured plans as a generally applicable criminal law.”
Under current state laws, an abortion must occur within the boundaries of the state for the state to seek charges against anyone who performed or helped facilitate the procedure as well as for a private citizen to bring a lawsuit under SB 8. What the Texas Freedom Caucus is proposing is to expand criminal penalties onto employers, abortion funds and family members who aid someone in getting an abortion across state lines.
As of right now, providing financial support to a Texas resident to get an abortion in another state does not violate any current laws. However, abortion funds in the state have still ceased providing direct funding out of caution.