Texas' Radical Abortion Ban Could Lead to Copycat Bills. Here's What to Know.
Texas’ new abortion ban, SB 8, is designed to ban abortion for most people in Texas and encourage anybody, anywhere, to sue a person who performed or helped someone get an abortion in violation of the ban. While SB 8 is uniquely egregious, it’s a stark example of what’s at stake in the nationwide fight for reproductive freedom. Its impact could spread to millions more nationwide if other states follow suit with copycat bills.
Here’s what to know about SB 8.*
*This information was last updated on October 13, 2021, after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed SB 8 to go back into effect only 48 hours after a lower court blocked the law. If you have questions about or need an abortion in Texas, visit needabortion.org.
Is SB 8 in effect?
Yes. Only 48 hours after a lower court blocked SB 8 from continuing to harm Texans, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the cruel ban to once again take effect.
Is abortion legal in Texas under SB 8?
Texans still have a constitutionally protected right to abortion, though it’s a right in name only when SB 8 is in effect. Texas politicians are trying to use SB 8 to run roughshod over the constitutional right to abortion by blocking patients from getting the care they need if they are beyond six weeks of pregnancy.
How far into pregnancy are abortions prohibited under SB 8?
Under SB 8, the state of Texas bans abortions if any fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which is after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they’re pregnant.
Under SB 8, is it illegal to get an abortion after six weeks in another state or country?
No. First, remember that SB 8 does not allow lawsuits against the person who receives an abortion. Second, SB 8 does not apply to abortions provided outside of Texas, so helping someone leave the state for care after six weeks would not be illegal. However, it is not possible to guarantee that people attempting to enforce SB 8 will not try to bring a lawsuit against people who refer or provide assistance to patients seeking abortion care outside of Texas.
Under SB 8, is it illegal to donate to a Texas abortion fund if it helps someone get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy?
Abortions performed under six weeks are not prohibited and SB 8 does not apply to abortions obtained out of state, so funding those abortions is not a violation of SB 8. Moreover, donating money is a protected First Amendment activity. However, it is not possible to guarantee that people attempting to enforce SB 8 will not bring a lawsuit against those who donate to an abortion fund, though the risk of liability is very low. If you wish to donate to organizations fighting forced pregnancy in Texas, you can find a list here.
Where in Texas can you get an abortion?
The following cities have one or more abortion providers: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, McAllen, Waco, and San Antonio. For a full list of abortion providers in Texas, go to: www.needabortion.org.
Can patients under 18 get an abortion in Texas?
Yes. However, if you are under 18, Texas law generally requires you to get the consent of a parent or legal guardian. If you are legally emancipated, you do not need the consent of a parent or legal guardian. If you don’t have consent from a parent or legal guardian or can’t ask, you can find more options below.
What if a patient under 18 doesn’t have consent for an abortion from a parent or legal guardian?
A person under 18 can get an abortion without the consent of their parent or legal guardian by filing an application for a judicial bypass. Judicial bypass is a way to get a judge’s permission for you to have an abortion without your parent or guardian’s consent. The process is entirely confidential. If the judge decides that you are mature enough to decide for yourself or that telling your parents would not be in your best interest or could lead to abuse, they will give you a court order that you can take to your doctor. If you think you might need a judicial bypass, there are lawyers who can help. Jane’s Due Process assists minors with the judicial bypass process, including by providing legal representation. You can reach them by phone at 1-866-999-5263 or online at: janesdueprocess.org. Because SB 8 limits the time in which you can get an abortion so severely, you should contact them as soon as possible if you want to get an abortion.
Is abortion safe?
Yes, abortion is an extremely safe and common procedure. At current rates, about one in four Americans who can become pregnant have had an abortion by the age of 45. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, and about 14 times safer than childbirth.
Is it true that Texas has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S.?
Yes. Texas’ abortion laws were some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country even before SB 8 was passed. Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association oppose some of Texas’ abortion laws because excessive restrictions on abortion care jeopardize patients’ health. As a result of these laws, there are not enough abortion clinics to adequately serve people in the nation’s second-most-populous state. About 900,000 people who are able to become pregnant in Texas live more than 150 miles from an abortion clinic.
What about the Supreme Court?
On Sept. 1, the Supreme Court turned its back on Texans and allowed SB 8 to go into effect, eliminating access to approximately 85 to 90 percent of abortions in the state.
The fight against SB 8 continues. On Sept. 23 we asked the Supreme Court to hear the case without waiting for further ruling from the Fifth Circuit. In addition to this lawsuit, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Texas to block SB 8 in early September.
As litigation proceeds, Congress must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would provide a nationwide safeguard against abortion bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that push abortion care out of reach. It would protect the constitutional rights of all people, no matter where they live. The WHPA has already passed in the House, and now it’s the Senate’s turn. Send a message to your senator: Defend abortion access for all.
For more information on abortion restrictions in Texas, read the ACLU of Texas’ full guide.