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1460 views   |   3   |   Last updated on Aug 03, 2022    Abortion Criminal Law

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S.113 (1973), that said that Texas laws criminalizing abortion were unconstitutional. However, the court’s decision left room for states to regulate abortions in certain ways.

Since then, Texas has enacted many state laws regulating abortion. Many are found in the Woman’s Right to Know Act, Chapter 171 of the Texas Health & Safety Code. Those laws cover various topics, including:

  • Who can perform an abortion
  • When and where an abortion can be obtained
  • How a pregnant patient must provide informed consent
  • Recordkeeping and documentation requirements

A search of the Texas statutes points you to a full set of all the statutes that mention abortion. Below we highlight some prominent abortion laws. If you need assistance locating a particular abortion law, please let us know

"Trigger Law" That Would Criminalize Abortions 

House Bill 1280 is often referred to as Texas's "trigger law." The law prohibits almost all abortions and will take effect on August 25th, 2022. Learn more in our other FAQ, Does Texas have trigger laws related to abortion?

Senate Bill 8 — Texas Heartbeat Act

Senate Bill 8 became effective in 2021. It prohibits a physician from performing or inducing an abortion after a "fetal heartbeat" is detected. Learn more in our other FAQ, What does Senate Bill 8 say about abortions?

Abortion-Inducing Medications

House Bill 2 was passed in the 2nd Called Session of the Texas Legislature in 2013. It contained many new restrictions on abortions, including the use of abortion-inducing medication. The bill added Subchapter D to the Woman’s Right to Know Act. Subchapter D regulates abortion-inducing drugs and establishes a protocol that physicians must follow. The law states that the physician must:

  • Perform a physical examination of the patient and document their findings in the patient’s medical record;
  • Provide the patient a telephone number to call with questions or to receive medical assistance in case of a complication; and
  • Require a follow-up visit within 14 days after the use of the drug.

Subchapter D was also amended in 2021 by Senate Bill 4. The 2021 amendments prohibit the use of abortion-inducing drugs on a patient whose pregnancy is more than 49 days (7 weeks) of "gestational age." They also prohibit any person from providing any abortion-inducing drug by courier, delivery, or mail service.

20-Week Ban 

Enacted in 2013, House Bill 2 amended the Woman's Right to Know Act by adding Subchapter C. Subchapter C is known as the Preborn Pain Act, which prohibits abortion 20 weeks "post-fertilization."

Physician Admitting Privileges 

The 2013 House Bill 2 also added Section 171.0031 to the Woman’s Right to Know Act. It requires that a physician performing an abortion must have admitting privileges at a hospital no further than 30 miles from where the abortion is performed.

Sonogram Law 

In 2011, House Bill 15 amended the Woman’s Right to Know Act by adding Subchapter B. This Subchapter requires a sonogram before an abortion is performed. The physician who will perform the abortion must provide a verbal explanation of the sonogram images. The patient must also sign an election form stating they understand the nature and consequences of an abortion.

Woman’s Right to Know Act 

The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 15 in 2003, which created the Woman's Right to Know Act in Chapter 171 of the Health & Safety Code. This chapter has been amended multiple times to include new provisions regulating abortion. Many of the laws we describe on this page form a part of the Woman’s Right to Know Act.

Parental Notification 

In 1999, Senate Bill 30 added Chapter 33 to the Texas Family Code. This chapter restricts access to abortion for minors and requires physicians to give at least 48-hour notice to the parents of a minor before the abortion can be performed. It also allows a "judicial bypass" in certain cases — see the Judicial Bypass Rules.

Criminal Abortion Laws up to Roe v. Wade

In its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court was reviewing the constitutionality of Texas criminal abortion laws. At that time, those laws were found in Articles 1191 – 1196 of the Texas Penal Code. You can read them here in the 1948 publication of the Texas statutes.

In 1973, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Texas Legislature enacted a new Penal Code that became effective on January 1, 1974. As part of this reorganization of statutes, the criminal abortion laws were moved to the Revised Civil Statutes, Articles 4512.1 – 4512.6.

Abortion Laws Guide & Related FAQs

The library has a guide to Texas and federal abortion laws with more extensive information about this topic. We also have several FAQs on various aspects of Texas abortion laws:

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