If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, Texas will enact complete abortion ban

Under Texas' "trigger law," doctors who perform abortions after Roe v. Wade is overturned would face up to life in prison.

click to enlarge A woman protests Texas' near-total abortion ban at a march in San Antonio last year. - Jaime Monzon
Jaime Monzon
A woman protests Texas' near-total abortion ban at a march in San Antonio last year.
The conservative-controlled U.S. Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a draft opinion leaked to Politico — and, should that happen, a Texas law would essentially prohibit all abortions in the state.

The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature last year passed a "trigger law” that would go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that ensured women's right to seek the procedure.

Under that law — passed amid a flurry of culture war legislation — performing or helping provide an abortion would become a felony offense. Doctors who conduct the procedure could face life in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. The only exception would be in cases where there's a risk to the patient’s life or “substantial impairment of major bodily function.”

If the statute goes into effect, the average Texan would have to drive 525 miles, each way, to obtain abortion care, according to abortion-advocacy organization the Guttmacher Institute.

It's unclear whether a majority of justices still support the leaked draft opinion or whether there have been changes to the document, which is dated Feb. 10. The draft, signed by Justice Samuel Alito, a member of the court's 6-3 conservative majority, appears to reflect a court vote on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, told The Texas Tribune she wants people to understand that the document is not a final ruling and that clinics in Texas are still providing abortion care.

“When news like this comes out, it confuses people and scares people, and I think there are people who will read these stories and think that abortion is already illegal,” Hagstrom Miller said. “I think it’s important for us to speak to these people and let them know this isn’t final, and at least for now we can still offer them the care they deserve.”

Even so, Texas currently has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, banning the procedure after after roughly six weeks. The Supreme Court has so far allowed that measure to stand, citing its "novel" enforcement mechanism, which lets third parties to bring civil lawsuits against anyone accused of violating it.

Texas progressives joined a national chorus of Democratic lawmakers calling for Congress to pass a law ensuring that women can seek abortions anywhere in the country. More than half of U.S. states would ban or severely restrict access to abortion should Roe be overturned, the Washington Post reports.

“If these Trump-appointed judges get their way, Texas’ abortion ban would be made worse, and it would spread across 26 other states. We can and must stop this,” said Greg Casar, Democratic nominee for the congressional district that includes downtown San Antonio, in an emailed statement. “We can protect the constitutional right to an abortion by codifying Roe v. Wade into law right now. There is no excuse to wait. The filibuster must end and the Senate must pass the House’s Women’s Health Protection Act.”

Progressive groups also warned that the high court's reversal of 50 years of precedent would open the door for anti-abortion lawmakers to impose even greater penalties on physicians who provide abortions and women who seek them. 

“The Supreme Court’s conservative justices are planning to overturn nearly 50 years of precedent guaranteeing the right to abortion, let that sink in,” Progress Texas Advocacy Director Diana Gómez said in written statement. “Texas is already living in a post-Roe reality, but this opinion draft confirms where our nation is headed. No right is safe under this Court or under any institution controlled by conservative politicians.”  

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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