Texas' attacks on abortion rights are getting even more extreme


There's even a proposed bill that would impose the death penalty for both people who have an abortion and the providers who perform them.

In a year where anti-abortion bills are being introduced at a dizzying pace, Texas stands out as one of the worst places for reproductive health.

Right now, seven separate anti-abortion bills are moving through the Texas House — and they've already passed the Texas Senate. And with a reliably anti-abortion Republican governor, Greg Abbott, the likelihood of many of these bills becoming law is high. 

First, GOP legislators in Texas are pushing two different bans that seek to restrict abortion quite early in pregnancy. There's a bill that would prohibit abortions, practically speaking, at around six weeks, well before many people know they're pregnant. There's an exception for "medical emergencies," but there's no definition of what those might be — and there's no exception for pregnancies that are the product of rape or incest. 

The bill doesn't stop there, though. Tucked into the ban is a provision that would allow literally anyone to bring a civil suit against a doctor who violates the requirements of the law. It isn't just the doctor that could be sued. Anyone who "aids or abets" the abortion, including someone who merely helps pay for it, can also be sued.

That provision is unlikely to survive any court challenge. Parties need standing to bring court cases. In brief, standing requires that the person bringing the suit suffer some sort of injury and that the lawsuit can provide some kind of redress for that injury. Here, it's difficult to imagine that a person can truly prove someone else's abortion injured them. 

Texas Republicans also have a more specialized ban in the works. Medication abortion is a highly safe method of terminating pregnancy up until the 10-week mark, but in Texas, there's a bill to cut that to seven weeks. There's no reason given as to why, nor is there any explanation of how this method-specific ban would dovetail with the other general ban that kicks in a week earlier in most instances. 

There's also a push by anti-abortion legislators for the state to pass a so-called "reason ban." These bans seek to restrict abortions the state concludes are based on things including sex, race, or genetic anomaly. The language of the Texas bill prohibits doctors from "knowingly" performing an abortion based on the "race, ethnicity, sex, or disability" of the fetus.

The "knowingly" portion of the proposed bill causes a problem. In order for a doctor to determine if a patient wants an abortion for ostensibly "improper" reasons, they have to interrogate their patient about the procedure. A federal appeals court recently upheld a similar ban in Ohio, making it likely that at least this portion of Texas's bill might stand if it gets through the Legislature. 

Anti-abortion legislators also introduced a measure that would require people seeking an abortion to receive a "pre-abortion resources access assistance offer." Patients would be forced to call an anti-abortion hotline where the people on the other end are required to inform them only of non-abortion options. 

GOP legislators also want to undercut local control by prohibiting governments from providing any sort of logistical support for abortions at the municipal level. The proposed bill would bar government entities from providing child care, travel assistance, lodging, or counseling as it relates to getting an abortion. That sort of assistance would be banned regardless of whether people at the municipal level had voted for pro-abortion politicians who wished to provide material support in a state where it is already very difficult to get an abortion. 

Taking a belt-and-suspenders approach, there's also an omnibus bill that contains most of the provisions of the other standalone bills. Additionally, there's a trigger ban, where if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion would automatically become illegal in Texas. At least 10 other states already have similar laws in place. 

All of these bills have made their way through one of the state's legislative chambers. An eighth bill hasn't gotten that far, but it's by far the most outrageous. GOP state Rep. Bryan Slaton has proposed a bill that would impose the death penalty for both people who have an abortion and the providers who perform them. However, It's unlikely to get very far — judging from what's happened when other Texas legislators have tried it in previous years.

In a state that already has mandatory counseling, waiting periods, mandatory parental consent, forced ultrasounds, and more, these additional restrictions may seem like overkill. But each new restrictive bill the state passes creates the chance that litigation over the law makes its way up to the Supreme Court, where a solid anti-abortion majority awaits.