FAQ: New abortion laws in Texas

Can I still get an abortion?

Abortion is still legal in Texas. Even though bills were recently passed to limit access to reproductive healthcare in Texas, it is still safe and legal to have an abortion in our state.

Abortion didn’t start with Roe v. Wade; safe abortion started with Roe v. Wade. The Lilith Fund will continue to remove barriers to accessing a safe and legal abortion by giving financial help to low-income Texans seeking an abortion, and to anyone visiting a Texas clinic who can’t afford the abortion they need. We will keep doing everything we can to help our clients.

If you need help from the Lilith Fund, please check our clinic list and our page about abortion assistance first steps. Once you have an appointment with a clinic, call our hotline and we will talk with you about how we may be able to help. Please note: we are in the process of updating our clinic list as clinics close in response to HB2. For most accurate information, contact the clinic yourself first.

What are the new laws about abortion and when will they go into effect?

House Bill 2 (HB2) regulates abortion procedures, providers and facilities. Gov. Perry signed HB2 into law on July 18, 2013. Some sections of the law went into effect in October and November of 2013 while others will go into effect in September 2014.

Starting October 29, 2013, these laws went into effect:

  • No one can get an abortion if they are over 20 weeks of gestation, or 22 weeks if calculated from the last monthly period
  • Medication abortion (early, non-surgical abortion done with pills) will require up to four visits with the same doctor. First, 24 hours in advance for a sonogram. Then for the first and second doses of the drug. Lastly, abortion patients will have to return within 14 days for a follow-up visit.

Starting November 1, 2013:

What this all means:

  • About one third of clinics in Texas will have to stop providing abortion services immediately – most of these clinics will likely close down.
  • If you are more than 20 weeks pregnant you will not be able to get an abortion in Texas. If you can travel to New Mexico or elsewhere, later abortion is still legal outside of Texas.
  • It is and will continue to be illegal to use pills to induce an abortion if you did not get them from a doctor who is authorized to provide these medicines. For more information on laws about abortion pills, please visit Women on Waves.

Starting in September 2014:

  • All Texas abortion clinics will have meet the requirements for Ambulatory Surgical Centers
  • This means there will only be six abortion clinics in the state – two in Houston, and one each in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth.
  • People across the state will have to travel hundreds of miles to access safe and legal services. Anyone seeking an abortion in west Texas or the Rio Grande Valley will have to travel the farthest distances.

You can read the full text of HB2 here.

Is anyone fighting these laws?

Clinics in Texas are working to comply with the laws. However, they are also working with advocates to challenge the laws so we can keep abortion clinics open and provide safe and legal health services.

The ACLU of Texas, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in federal court on September 27, 2013 to stop HB2. The lawsuit says the new Texas law is unconstitutional, interferes with women’s personal medical decisions, and threatens women’s health and safety.

On October 28, 2013, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an injunction stating that the admitting privileges requirement was unconstitutional and preventing it from taking effect. This was the District Court’s ruling.  But on October 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit lifted the injunction, allowing the law to take effect. The case is set to proceed in January with oral arguments. Between November 2013 and January 2014, clinics will struggle to meet the admitting privileges requirements and many will close.

There are many cases like these in different states – numerous reproductive rights advocates have challenged anti-abortion laws in their states. Eventually one or more of their cases will get to the Supreme Court and reproductive rights advocates will have a chance to argue that laws restricting abortion access are unconstitutional.

What can I do to help?

  • Go out and educate your communities on what these laws truly mean to women’s healthcare in Texas.
  • Continue to speak out with your personal story to encourage community activism.
  • REGISTER TO VOTE in order to have a voice within your communities. Vote out current lawmakers that have these antiquated agendas that aren’t in the best interests of reproductive healthcare in Texas. Check if you are registered or get a voter registration application here.
  • DONATE.  Make a contribution to an abortion fund like the Lilith Fund, TEA Fund in North Texas or The Stigma Relief Fund at Whole Woman’s Health. Give to NARAL Pro Choice Texas, the political arm of the pro-choice movement in our state.
  • VOLUNTEER AT A CLINIC. Abortion facilities across the state seek volunteers to help assist patients with the abortion process. Volunteers do everything from escorting the patient into the facility to holding their hand through the procedure.

Special thanks to Whole Woman’s Health for help with this FAQ.