Skip to Main Content
my account

Abortion Laws

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

Trigger Laws

For more information, see our FAQ about Texas's trigger law.

What is a "Trigger Law"?

"Trigger laws" are laws that are passed by a legislative body but only go into effect once a certain thing happens. That specific event will "trigger" it into becoming enforceable law.

Trigger laws are often passed so that a law can go into effect as soon as possible once conditions allow.

Texas's Trigger Law

In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed a bill with a trigger provision. This bill, HB 1280, contained language 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

HB 1280's language banning abortion can be found in Chapter 170A of the Texas Health & Safety Code. On July 26, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, triggering this language to go into effect. See more details in the next box, "When Exactly Does the Trigger Law Go Into Effect?"

When Exactly Does the Trigger Law Go Into Effect?

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. A judgment did not issue at the same time, but it indicated to state governments that a judgment would be issued soon. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory letter following the decision which stated the following:

Today, the Court issued its opinion reversing Roe, but it has yet to issue its judgment. A judgment is a legal document distinct from the Court’s opinion. The Court will issue its judgment only after the window for the litigants to file a motion for rehearing has closed. A judgment can issue in about a month, or longer if the Court considers a motion for rehearing. So while it is clear that the Act will take effect, we cannot calculate exactly when until the Court issues its judgment. My office will publicly announce an effective date for the Act as soon as possible—and we look forward to doing so.

On July 26, 2022, the Supreme Court issued its judgment in Dobbs. In response, Attorney General Paxton issued another advisory letter announcing that the law would go into effect on August 25, 2022.

If the trigger law isn't effective yet, why is the media saying that abortion is banned in Texas?

In the same advisory letter quoted above, Attorney General Paxton suggested the enforcement of pre-Roe statutes outlawing abortion:

What’s more, some prosecutors may choose to immediately pursue criminal prosecutions based on violations of Texas abortion prohibitions predating Roe that were never repealed by the Texas Legislature. Although these statutes were unenforceable while Roe was on the books, they are still Texas law. Under these pre-Roe statutes, abortion providers could be criminally liable for providing abortions starting today.

For more details on these pre-Roe laws, please see the "1925 Laws" box on the "History of Abortion Laws" page.