The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas announced Tuesday that a state court has blocked Texas officials from enforcing a pre-Roe abortion ban that was on the books prior to 1973.
The news comes after the civil rights group filed a lawsuit is in response to an advisory by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that claimed prosecutors could immediately begin to crack down on abortion with laws that predate Roe, instead of waiting a month or more for Texas’ 2021 “trigger law” to take effect and ban abortion following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe.
Texas’ trigger law will take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court’s judgment on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Last week’s overturning of Roe was an opinion by the court and not its final judgment.
That judgment is expected in two months or longer, but all abortions in the state have already ceased as providers examine the legal ramifications of pre-Roe laws.
“With the blessing of five Supreme Court justices, politicians will soon be able to force Texans to suffer the serious risks, pains, and costs of pregnancy and childbirth against their will,” said Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “But that day is not today, despite Attorney General Paxton’s campaign to stop all abortions immediately by threatening unlawful prosecutions under antiquated laws.”
“Our fight against the state of Texas’ unrelenting campaign to criminalize abortion did not end when the Supreme Court overturned Roe,” said Adriana Piñon, acting legal director for the ACLU of Texas. “This lawsuit is the first step in a post-Roe world to extend care for people in Texas. We will continue using every tool we have, on every front we can: you will hear us at the legislature; you will also hear us on the streets because Texans deserve bodily autonomy.”
The civil rights groups are suing on behalf of aboriton providers in the state. The lawsuit is aimed at Paxton, the Texas Medical Board, Texas Health and Services Commission and other state officials and agencies.
The lawsuit argues that Roe repealed abortion laws that were on the books prior to the 1973 decision. It also argues that the state’s trigger ban and pre-Roe abortion law cannot function together because both laws have different penalties for the same offense, which would violate due process.
Abortion providers say they are trying to provide abortions for as long as they can before the window closes.
“Abortion services stopped immediately in Texas last week after the Supreme Court’s crushing decision, but we will fight to maintain access for as long as we can,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Every day, every hour that abortion remains legal in Texas is a chance for more people to get the care they need. The clinics we represent want to help as many patients as they can, down to the last minute.”