5 Things You Need to Know About Texas Abortion Legislation

The new Texas abortion law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, is Senate Bill 8 and took effect earlier this year on Sept. 1, 2021. In all cases, even rape and incest, abortion is forbidden from approximately six weeks of gestation.

Abortion rights activists have asked the Supreme Court to take up their case actively, but the court has postponed a request by the Biden administration to block its enforcement.
Here are five things you need to know about the Texan abortion legislation:

The Legality of Abortion in Texas

In Texas, your right to become a parent is constitutionally protected, and you can decide to terminate a pregnancy. However, even though Texas cannot prohibit abortions, the state can impose restrictions that make getting them more difficult and expensive.
Under the new law, Texas bans abortions after six weeks of gestation. The only reason an abortion can take place is if there is a medical emergency. No exceptions are made for rape or incest after the 6-week cut-off.

Abetting Abortions

According to SB 8, any private citizen in Texas or elsewhere is allowed to sue anyone who performs an abortion in the state after the cardiac activity of the embryo can be detected. In addition, a private citizen can sue anyone aiding or abetting someone to get an abortion in Texas or anyone who aims to aid or abet the process. However, SB 8 does not apply to out-of-state abortions, and it cannot apply if someone is assisted in getting an out-of-state abortion.

Applying the 6 weeks

The name six-week abortion is a minor misnomer for SB 8 because it doesn’t look at the gestational age of the embryo. Instead, the law considers the presence of cardiac activity, which is typically detected at about six weeks from the formation of the embryo. The law requires a person to make at least two trips to the abortion provider and undergo a sonogram. The person seeking the abortion must receive state-mandated paperwork outlining the fetus’s medical risks, alternatives, and developmental stages. After receiving this, they are required to wait 24 hours before having an abortion. If they live more than 100 miles away from the nearest abortion provider, the 24-hour waiting period is waived.

Additionally, the law mandates that the doctor who performs the sonogram must be the same doctor who performs the abortion and make all follow-up appointments.

Minors and Abortion

In Texas, anyone under 18 is generally required to get parental or legal guardian consent. Legally emancipated minors are not required to get consent. However, a judicial bypass (permission from a judge) can be sought by a minor under 18 if they cannot get consent from a parent or legal guardian. The process of a judicial bypass is entirely confidential. First, judges deem the decision based on a minor being mature enough or consider the threat of abuse of the minor by the parents. Then, a court order is given to the minor to take directly to the abortion clinic.

Comparing Texas to Other States

Texas has very restrictive abortion laws opposed by both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association. The laws are excessive because close to 1 million people in the state who may decide to abort live on average 150 miles from an abortion clinic. This makes it difficult for them to access abortion within the legal framework.

In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down two anti-abortion laws from Texas. The first law required doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Law number two required abortion clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers (mini-hospitals).  At the time, the court ruled that these laws were not about health or safety but served to block safe and inexpensive access to abortion.

The statutes of other states differ because they are trying to enforce them through government actions like criminal charges against physicians providing abortions.

Other states trying to ban abortions entirely or prohibit them after eight weeks or less of pregnancy have been put on hold by the courts. The court recently halted a new Arkansas law planning to ban all abortions, except for medical emergencies. Alabama, Iowa, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah are the other states with blocked laws banning abortion in early pregnancy.


So far, the decision made by the courts has forced many clinics to close because of uncertainty. This means that there are far too few clinics to serve the demand for abortions in the state. Next month, the Supreme Court is taking up the Texas abortion law, in an expedited move rarely seen. However, according to ABC News, the law must remain in place until the court decides. This can take up to a few months after the hearing.