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Abortion Laws

This guide discusses the developments in laws related to abortion following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling.

History of Abortion Laws


For more information, see our FAQ: "Where can I find Texas laws on abortion?"

Timeline of Texas Abortion Laws

This page contains a timeline view of Texas's abortion laws and links to the legislation that enacted them. To learn more about what the Legislature intended when they wrote a specific bill, you will need to do "legislative intent" research. Our library does not have material related to this type of research. For help, please contact the Legislative Reference Library.

For more information about what occurred in a specific year, please click on the links below:

2022

  • Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturns Roe v. Wade
  • Texas's trigger law will go into effect

2021

  • Texas Heartbeat Act
  • Ability to bring civil suit for performing or "aiding or abetting" an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected
  • Trigger law is created
  • Amendments to laws related to medical abortions

2017

  • "Partial-birth" and "dismemberment" abortions prohibited
  • Requirements related to the donation and disposition of fetal tissue

2016

  • Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt strikes down admitting privileges requirement and heightened abortion clinic standards
  • New restrictions on minors seeking abortions

2013

  • Admitting privileges required
  • Abortion clinics must meet heightened standards
  • Prohibition of abortion 20 weeks "post-fertilization"
  • Limitations on medical abortions

2011

  • Sonogram required prior to abortion

2003

  • Creation of the "Woman's Right to Know Act"

1999

  • Parental notification required for minors seeking abortions

1992

  • Planned Parenthood v. Casey largely upholds Roe but overturns the "trimester" framework for evaluating abortion laws

1973

  • Roe v. Wade finds Texas abortion laws to be unconstitutional

"1925 Laws"

  • Pre-Roe laws criminalizing abortion, going as far back as 1854

2022: Dobbs and trigger law

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. In this decision, the Court found that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. It found that there was no right to abortion included in the United States Constitution. Through this ruling, it allowed states to create abortion laws without restriction.

The Court issued its judgment in this case on July 26, 2022. A judgment in a Supreme Court case overturning Roe is one of the potential triggers listed in Texas's trigger law. According to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, this means that the Texas laws prohibiting most abortions will go into effect on August 25, 2022. Please see the "Trigger Laws" page of this guide for more details.

Read the Decision

2021: Texas Heartbeat Act, trigger law, medical abortions

For more information about SB 8, please see our FAQ on the topic.

Texas Heartbeat Act

SB 8 is known as the "Texas Heartbeat Act." It added a new subchapter to the Woman's Right to Know Act prohibiting abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Ability to bring lawsuit for providing, aiding, or abetting abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected

The most controversial aspect of SB 8 was the creation of a "civil enforcement" measure. It allows any person, other than a state or local government employee or officer, to sue anyone involved in providing an abortion or intending to provide an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. This includes third parties who "aid and abet the performance or inducement of an abortion," including paying for the abortion. 

The United States Supreme Court declined to hear an emergency challenge to this law in Whole Women's Health v. Jackson, 594 U. S. ____ (2021), allowing it to go into effect.

New restrictions on medical abortions

SB 4 added several restrictions to the use of abortion-inducing medicine. This bill:

  • Prevents abortion-inducing medicine from being delivered by mail, delivery service, or courier.
  • Requires a physician to examine a patient seeking a medical abortion in person.
  • Prevents a physician from prescribing abortion-inducing medicine for a pregnancy with a gestational age of more than 49 days. 

Trigger Law

HB 1280 contained a "trigger" provision that would ban abortion 30 days after one of the following events occurred:

  • The issuance of a judgment by the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade;
  • The issuance of any other judgment by the United States Supreme Court giving the states the power to prohibit abortion; or
  • The adoption of an amendment of the United States Constitution giving the power to prohibit abortion to the states

For more details, please see the "Trigger Laws" page of this guide or our FAQ on the topic.

Read the Legislation

2017: "Partial-birth" abortions and fetal tissue disposition

The 85th Legislature's SB 8 added two new subchapters to the Woman's Right to Know Act. Subchapter F prohibits "partial-birth" abortions. Subchapter G prohibits "dismemberment abortions," a medical procedure known as dilation and evacuation.

This bill also added new provisions about how embryonic and fetal tissue and remains must be disposed of. Most notably, it created Chapter 697 of the Health and Safety Code. This chapter required embryonic or fetal tissue to be cremated or given a burial. The federal Fifth Circuit found these laws to be unconstitutional in 2018's Whole Woman's Health v. Smith, 338 F.Supp.3d 606 (2018), and prevented them from being enforced. Following the Dobbs ruling in 2022, this decision was reversed in Whole Woman's Health v. Young, 37 F.4th 1098 (2022).

Read the Legislation

2016: Whole Woman's Health strikes down portions of HB 2, new restrictions on minors

Read the Decision

Read the Legislation

2013: Admitting privileges and "Pre-born Pain Act"

Admitting privilege requirements

"Admitting privileges" are special powers granted to a doctor by a hospital to allow them to admit patients for treatment. Doctors must go through an extensive application and review process to receive privileges. Even after going through this process, receiving the privileges is not a guarantee.

HB 2 required physicians performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion was performed.

Heightened abortion clinic standards

HB 2 also required that abortion clinics conform to stricter standards than they had before. It required them to meet "ambulatory surgical" standards, which covers a broad range of topics like construction, plumbing, lighting, medical equipment, and staff qualifications.

Prohibition of abortions at or after "20 weeks post-fertilization"

HB 2 also required the doctor to estimate the "post-fertilization age" of the fetus. It prohibited the doctor from performing the abortion if they found that the fetus was 20 weeks or older, with some exceptions. This put the point at which a patient could no longer obtain an abortion slightly before the third trimester.

This is the only provision of HB 2 that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to stand.

Read the Legislation

2011: Sonogram required

HB 15 added to existing "informed consent" laws by adding the requirement of a sonogram prior to an abortion. This bill required that a physician provide a sonogram at least 24 hours before performing abortion. The doctor performing the sonogram must do the following:

  • Display the sonogram so that the patient can see it;
  • Describe the images on the sonogram; and
  • Make the heartbeat audible so that the patient can hear it.

The patient has the option to view the sonogram and hear the heartbeat, but must hear the description of the sonogram unless the pregnancy is the result of assault or incest, the patient is a minor, or if the fetus has an irreversible medical condition.

Read the Legislation

2003: Woman's Right to Know Act

This bill required the physician providing an abortion to discuss specific medical risks and sources of support with the patient. It also gives the patient the right to review informational materials published by the state on the same topics.

Read the Legislation

1999: Parental notification

This bill prevented a physician from performing an abortion on an unemancipated minor unless they had notified the minor's parent or guardian. They could also receive a court order, known as "judicial bypass."

Read the Legislation

1992: Planned Parenthood v Casey introduces "viability" standard for abortion laws

Read the Decision

1973: Roe v. Wade finds Texas abortion laws to be unconstitutional

Read the Decision

"1925 Laws"

Since the Dobbs ruling, Texas's "1925 Laws" regarding abortion have been widely discussed. In reality, these abortion laws existed in some form long before 1925! Please see below for a detailed history.

The "1925 Laws" were found to be unconstitutional by Roe v. Wade. However, the Legislature never fully removed them from the statutes. In his advisory order following Dobbs, Attorney General Ken Paxton suggested that these laws could still be enforced. A group of clinics sued Attorney General Paxton, seeking a "restraining order" from the court that would prevent the laws from being enforced. A Harris County judge granted a temporary restraining order. In response, Paxton requested an emergency stay of that restraining order from the Texas Supreme Court. On July 1, 2022, the Texas Supreme court issued a stay order, temporarily permitting the enforcement of the laws while the court considers the case. 

History of Pre-Roe Laws