The U.S. Supreme Court issued its official judgment in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case on Tuesday, officially beginning the 30-day countdown for Texas’ “trigger law” banning elective abortions to take effect.
The Court had already issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson on June 24, upholding the State of Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of gestation and reversing the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, thus returning the authority to regulate abortions back to the states.
Although the Texas trigger law will not go into effect until August 25, elective abortions are already essentially banned in Texas under anti-abortion laws that predated the ruling in Roe and immediately went into effect after the Court issued its opinion.
The state’s two dozen abortion clinics ceased performing the procedure after the overturn of Roe, fearing criminal prosecution under the pre-Roe laws, which make it a crime punishable by up to five years in prison to provide or “furnish the means” for an abortion. This older ban relies solely on local prosecutors for enforcement.
Those statutes are separate from the trigger law, which the Legislature passed in 2021. That law, titled the Human Life Protection Act, House Bill (HB) 1280, makes it a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison to knowingly perform, induce, or attempt an elective abortion at any point during a pregnancy.
HB 1280 says that the attorney general “shall” bring a lawsuit to seek a civil penalty of no less than $100,000 per abortion performed. Medical professionals that carry out elective abortions will also lose their licenses under the law.
The trigger law does provide an exception for miscarriages and if a licensed physician determines an abortion is necessary for the mother’s safety.
Lastly, on top of these punishments, the law leaves open the possibility of expanding the civil penalty for violators.
“The fact that conduct is subject to a civil or criminal penalty under this chapter does not abolish or impair any remedy for the conduct that is available in a civil suit,” the law reads.
While other states’ trigger laws immediately went into effect after the Supreme Court’s opinion, Texas’ was written to go into effect 30 days after the Court issued its official judgment to allow for rehearings or appeals to be filed. That process usually takes about a month.