Texas Tribune – Performing an abortion is now a felony punishable by up to life in prison in Texas after the state’s trigger law, which has only narrow exceptions to save the life of a pregnant patient, went into effect Thursday.
The law was “triggered” when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed states to set their own laws about abortion.
Abortion clinics across Texas had already stopped performing the procedure, fearing prosecution under state laws that were on the books before Roe v. Wade.
Texas now has three significant abortion bans in place and several administrative regulations governing the procedure, setting up a potential conflict as the largest state to ban abortion navigates this new legal landscape.
The trigger law criminalizes performing an abortion from the moment of fertilization unless the pregnant patient is facing “a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy.”
The statute specifically prohibits prosecuting a pregnant patient who undergoes an abortion.
Violations of the law are punishable by up to life in prison. The statute also says that the attorney general “shall” seek a civil penalty of not less than $100,000, plus attorney’s fees.
The Texas District and County Attorneys Association has raised concerns about this language.
“If this sends up a double jeopardy red flag for you, congratulations,” a memo on the group’s website reads, citing a 1994 case where the Supreme Court ruled that a defendant who is convicted and punished for a criminal offense cannot also have a non-remedial civil penalty imposed against them. Similarly, if a defendant pays a civil fine, they cannot be criminally prosecuted for the same offense.
“By requiring [the office of the attorney general] to pursue a minimum six-figure civil penalty for the same conduct that potentially incurs a felony sentence of imprisonment and a criminal fine,” the memo reads …