abortion rights

Your Guide to All the Crazy Abortion Legislation Happening in Texas

Texas has seen a slew of new abortion-related bills. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

New anti-abortion bills have been making their way into state legislatures across the country — including in Arkansas and Oklahoma — but in Texas, things are really taking off. Perhaps emboldened by the anti-choice Trump administration, Texas lawmakers have introduced at least three abortion-related bills since December, and the Center for Reproductive Rights is still fighting a rule that the Texas Department of State Health Services introduced last fall.

What’s more, as foretold by the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Texas lawmakers are moving away from so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws and toward laws with “more inflammatory language or graphic imagery” that target the procedure instead of clinic regulations. During a recent hearing, Texas lawmakers said outright that their bills had nothing to do with women’s health — a pretense that TRAP laws relied on. So, now that the gloves are off, here’s a guide to all the crazy abortion legislation that’s been introduced in the Lone Star state.

The Bill: Senate Bill 25

Status: Passed the Senate; will proceed to the House
What it claims to do: SB 25 prevents parents from suing doctors if their baby is born with a birth defect. Senator Brandon Creighton, who introduced the bill, said the bill will “promote an environment where the best physicians in America will want to practice medicine in Texas.”
What it means for abortion rights: Opponents of the bill worry it will lead doctors to withhold information from parents about a fetus’s potential disability. Democratic Senator José Rodriguez told the Texas Tribune that the bill “seems to be about restricting and further limiting a woman’s right to exercise her choice about what she’s going to do in the case of serious defects to the fetus.”

The Bill: Senate Bill 415, the “Dismemberment Abortion Ban”

Status: Passed the Senate; will proceed to the House
What it claims to do: The bill criminalizes what Senator Charles Perry calls “dismemberment abortions,” which are really dilation-and-evacuation (or D&E) abortions — one of the most common methods of abortion in the second trimester of a pregnancy.
What it means for abortion rights: SB 415 would make one of the safest surgical methods for ending a pregnancy illegal. And as the Texas Observer points out, the practice isn’t limited to elective abortion — D&E abortions are also performed due to pregnancy complications such as miscarriages. D&E abortions usually occur between 14 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, meaning the bill could expand the state’s existing 20-week abortion ban.

The Bill: House Bill 948, the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act”

Status: Proposed
What it claims to do: Representative Tony Tinderholt, who introduced the bill, has been pretty straightforward about what it does — the “Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act” seeks to outlaw abortion in the state. In an interview with the Observer, Tinderholt said the bill would “force” women to be “more personally responsible” when it comes to sex.
What it means for abortion rights: Exactly what it says: The bill would criminalize abortion in Texas except when a mother’s life is at risk due to pregnancy complications. It makes no exception for fetal abnormalities, and women who got abortions could face felony charges; it also instructs Texas officials to ignore any “conflicting” federal laws. (A University of Texas law professor said there’s “no doubt whatsoever” that HB948 is unconstitutional.)

The Bill: Senate Bill 8, the “Pre-Born Protection and Dignity Act”

Status: Proposed
What it claims to do: SB 8 would ban what its sponsor, Senator Charles Schwertner, refers to as “partial-birth abortion,” as well as the sale or donation of fetal remains. At a recent senate hearing, Schwertner argued for the bill’s necessity by citing bogus videos shot by an anti-abortion group that supposedly showed Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal tissue. (Schwertner, by the way, is the guy who smashed a table to cut off a pro-choice advocate during a hearing last month.)
What it means for abortion rights: As opponents have pointed out, the bill wouldn’t do much, even if it passed — the type of abortion Schwertner is seeking to restrict was made illegal more than a decade ago, and fetal-tissue sales are pretty nonexistent. The executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas called the bill “a solution in search of a problem.”

The Bill: Senate Bill 258

Status: Proposed
What it claims to do: Much like the bill Mike Pence got so much flak for in Indiana, SB 258 would require fetal remains resulting from abortion to be cremated or buried. This is the bill Senator Don Huffines was referring to with his “dignity of the unborn” comment.
What it means for abortion rights: The bill puts yet another obstacle before mothers seeking abortions, as it would require medical providers to give patients a form to select which method (burial or cremation) she prefers. The Texas Department of State Health Services introduced a similar rule last fall that took effect in December, but the rule was blocked by a federal judge in late January.

The Bill: House Bill 1971, the “Disabled Preborn Justice Act”

Status: Proposed
What it claims to do: Representative Matt Schaefer, who introduced the bill, said it “brings needed pro-life changes to three areas of the law.” It prohibits women from getting abortions due to fetal abnormalities, and it requires health-care providers to give pregnant women information about care if their fetus has been declared abnormal — including information about “special support throughout pregnancy, delivery and, depending on severity of diagnosis, up to and after the natural death of the child,” according to Schaefer’s website.
What it means for abortion rights: Under current law, Texas women can get an abortion if (a) the fetus isn’t viable and the pregnancy hasn’t entered the third trimester, or (b) the fetus has a severe and irreversible abnormality. Schaefer’s bill would close both loopholes.

The Bill: House Joint Resolution 121, the “Life at Conception Provision of the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights”

Status: Proposed
What it claims to do: HJR 121 proposes that the Texas state constitution be amended to guarantee the rights of “unborn children.” It would expand the definition of “citizen of the state” to include the phrase: “each member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.”
What it means for abortion rights: Basically the amendment would criminalize all abortion in Texas, except in cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother was in danger.

And those are just the major bills — for a full list of legislation, including bills that failed to pass, check out this handy list from Rewire.

All the Crazy Abortion Legislation Happening in Texas