Texas governor signs 'trigger' abortion ban

Texas Texas state capitol | Inspired By Maps/Shutterstock

The governor of Texas signed two bills last week, to prevent the future closure of churches during disasters and to ban abortions if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the bills among a series of other measures last week. 

He signed the Human Life Protection Act of 2021, House Bill 1280, on June 16. The bill makes it illegal for anyone to “knowingly perform, induce, or attempt an abortion,” with exceptions for situations where the life of the mother would be at risk in continuing the pregnancy. 

Women who have abortions would not be held liable or penalized under the law. Abortionists could be fined $100,000 for illegal abortions.

The bill would only go into effect, however, 30 days after the Supreme court issued a judgment “overruling, wholly or partly, Roe v. Wade, as modified by Planned Parenthood v. Casey.” The 1973 Roe decision legalized abortion nationwide and prohibited states from banning “pre-viability” abortions. The 1992 Planned Parenthood ruling upheld Roe and established a new test, prohibiting state abortion regulations from imposing an “undue burden” on abortion.

Alternatively, Texas’ “trigger” law would also go into effect after any Supreme Court decision or constitutional amendment that permitted states to ban abortion. 

The Texas Senate passed the bill on May 25 by a vote of 19 to 12. On May 6, the Texas House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 81 to 61. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Angela Paxton (R) and in the House by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R). 

The Human Life Protection Act of 2021 is essentially the opposite of bills in states such as New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, which codified a right ot abortion even if the Supreme Court were to rule otherwise. 

Also on June 16, Abbott signed a bill preventing public agencies and officials from ordering a house of worship closed, or issuing an order that effectively closes churches. 

House Bill 1239 states “A government agency or public official may not issue an order that closes or has the effect of closing places of worship in this state or in a geographic area of this state.”

The bill passed with bipartisan support in both the Texas House of Representatives and in the Texas Senate. The bill passed the Senate on May 21 by a vote of 28 to 3; a week later on May 28 it passed the House by a vote of 113 to 30.

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