The Texas state trigger law that bans abortion took effect on Thursday. Residents in the state lost access to the medical treatment, alongside those in Idaho and Tennessee, and will be joined shortly by North Dakota and Oklahoma by Saturday.
Performing an abortion is now a felony punishable by up to life in prison and fines of $100,000. There are narrow exceptions to save the life of a pregnant patient.
Last September, the “heartbeat bill” took effect, which deputized citizens to sue those who may have aided a person receiving an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy. State lawmakers also passed a trigger law that would ban all abortion including in the instances of rape or incest if the U.S. Supreme Court issued a judgment ending Roe v. Wade. The law would take effect 30 days after the decision. The official judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson was issued July 27, officially starting the 30-day clock.
After the ruling was announced, however, abortion clinics across Texas had already stopped performing the procedure, fearing prosecution under state laws that were on the books before Roe v. Wade.
Responses from state leaders differed hugely by party and abortion rights have emerged as a top voting issue ahead of the midterms.
Democrat gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is using the issue to rally voters, arguing that incumbent Governor Greg Abbott’s stances are “too extreme for Texas.”
“I think it’s really important that we recognize that many, many women in the state of Texas will not have the resources or the freedom or the ability to travel out of state to literally seek this life-saving health care,” O’Rourke said during a press event Thursday. “What we see in Texas today under Greg Abbott is an attack on their health care on their very lives, and especially those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.”
O’Rourke’s campaign also released a new TV ad Thursday that features several women discussing the impact the law will have on their lives and ability to make decisions that they say are best for their families.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Texas praised the start of the stronger restrictions, stating that with the law in place, “Texas is demonstrating to the rest of the country that we will always protect life and defend the unborn.” It has promised to continue its pursuit of additional legislative options that would prevent any Texas association with abortions.
“The Republican Party of Texas believes every life matters and is created in the image of God,” it said in a campaign email. “We always have and always will give a voice to the voiceless, because their God-given rights matter too.”