Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation that would prohibit abortions in Texas if the United States Supreme Court were to overturn the current binding precedent established in Roe v. Wade.
On Wednesday, Abbott signed House Bill 1280. According to the text of the bill, the legislation would be enforceable if the Supreme Court either “wholly or partly” overruled Roe or if a constitutional amendment was ratified permitting states to ban abortions.
The Hill reports that the legislation would “make it a second-degree felony to perform or try to perform an abortion.” If, during the illicit procedure, the fetus dies, the penalty would automatically increase to a first-degree felony. If convicted, a life sentence may be imposed. The legislation also imposes a minimum fine of $100,000 on abortion providers and requires that “the appropriate licensing authority shall revoke the license, permit, registration, certificate, or other authority of a physician or other health care professional who performs, induces, or attempts” an abortion.
House Bill 1280 does not provide exceptions for the rare instances of fertilization by rape or incest–a common talking point of pro-abortion individuals. The law does, however, contain a medical exemption if the woman can demonstrate she has a “life-threatening physical condition” that would be aggravated by or caused by pregnancy.
The legislation is a “trigger bill,” according to The Hill, and it would take effect 30 days after Roe is overturned–or 30 days after an amendment to the Constitution is ratified. Amending the Constriction would require three-fourths of the states to pass the amendment.
In mid-May, the Supreme Court granted certiorari and agreed to hear an argument in a case regarding a relatively new Mississippi law that precludes a mother from aborting her baby after fifteen weeks of the pregnancy have elapsed. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which will be heard some time during the Supreme Court’s next term, the Court will determine the constitutionality of Mississippi’s new abortion law.
Conservatives and members of the pro-life and anti-abortion movements are optimistic that the 6-3 conservative majority–composed of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett–will overturn or at least amend the precedent established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In order for a decision to become a binding precedent, or to overrule a previous decision, a minimum of five justices must agree on the ruling and the rationale of the ruling.
Under Roe, which was upheld in Casey, the Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides a fundamental “right to privacy,” which permits a woman to terminate her pregnancy. In the aforementioned cases, the Court also held that the state may not impose regulations on abortion during the first trimester. However, in subsequent trimesters, up to the point of “viability,” the state may impose restrictions, provided the law contains an exception to permit abortion if it would save the life or mitigate health complications for the mother.
It is worth noting that the Supreme Court’s term generally begins in the fall and goes until the end of June. This means it may be more than a year before a decision is handed down.