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Texas Abortion Laws

Abortion is illegal in Texas unless a physician finds, in the exercise of reasonable medical judgment, that it is necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant person or prevent a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant person.

Texas abortion laws represent some of the most restrictive in the nation, providing for a near-total ban on abortion in the Lone Star state.

Texas Abortion Law After Dobbs

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the case that ended the constitutional right to abortion. The Court in Dobbs overturned its 1973 holding in Roe v. Wade. Dobbs dramatically changed the landscape of American law on reproductive rights as it returned to the states the power to regulate and even prohibit abortion.

Even though Roe had legalized abortion for almost 50 years, the state of Texas kept several abortion bans and restrictions on the books. It had passed a trigger law to take effect if Roe was overturned.

With the ruling in Dobbs, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that a Texas abortion ban passed in 2021 called the Human Life Protection Act became law in Texas.

In reality, Texas now has several different abortion laws in effect. This has led to some confusion among both supporters and opponents of legalized abortion. Abortion laws in Texas do not provide an exception for cases of rape or incest.

The Human Life Protection Act

This statute prohibits all abortions except when a physician determines, in the exercise of reasonable medical judgment, that the pregnancy places a person at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantially impairing a major bodily function.

State law does not define what specific circumstances qualify for the medical exception, which has caused confusion and threatened the lives of women with serious health issues.

Abortion includes an attempt by any means to end a pregnancy. It does not include efforts taken to save the life or health of the fetus or to remove a dead fetus. Efforts to remove an ectopic pregnancy are also not considered an abortion.

There are no criminal or civil penalties for a pregnant woman upon whom an abortion is performed. However, a physician or anyone else assisting an unlawful abortion may face prison, fines, and civil liability.

In 2023, Dallas resident Kate Cox, 20 weeks into a difficult pregnancy, learned that her fetus had a genetic defect that would result in its early death. Given the dangerous pregnancy and its expected outcome, she sought legal help.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a petition in court. Cox had already suffered pregnancy complications. Her physician feared that carrying the pregnancy to term could negatively impact her future fertility. They requested that the court declare her case met the legal exception so she could have an abortion in Texas.

Although the district court judge agreed and granted an order, the attorney general appealed the court ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. Before that court issued its decision (which denied the requested order), Cox left Texas to obtain an abortion elsewhere.

In its written court decision, the Texas Supreme Court concluded that Cox's medical case did not meet the legal standard for the exception. The court found the physician must determine that in their reasonable medical judgment terminating the pregnancy was necessary to save her life or to prevent impairment to a major bodily function.

It ruled that a physician's "good faith belief" was insufficient, which would have forced Cox to risk losing her reproductive capability by giving birth to a child who would quickly die a horrible death from Trisomy 18. The Court agreed that the Texas Medical Board could guide physicians on what medical conditions may meet the legal standard.

The Texas Heartbeat Act

In 2021, Texas also passed the Texas Heartbeat Act. This law prohibits essentially all abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat at six weeks, despite the heart not being formed at that point and there being no sound medical evidence to support the claim.

The term "fetal heartbeat" is subject to debate among medical experts as pulsing may be detected at six weeks into a pregnancy, but a formed heart doesn't appear until the 10th week.

Texas defines fetal heartbeat as "cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac," but there's no evidence of this occurring by six weeks.

The prohibitions contained in this abortion ban also contain a life-threatening medical emergency exception. This statute defines a medical emergency almost identical to the exception in the Human Life Protection Act above.

The Heartbeat Act cannot be enforced by the state. It relies on private individuals filing a civil lawsuit against an abortion provider or anyone aiding an illegal abortion, allowing the law to escape any substantive judicial review. Given the more restrictive abortion ban in the Human Life Protection Act, the Heartbeat Act is no longer the focal point of Texas abortion law.

Other Restrictions

Legal experts debate whether Texas' older abortion laws, which were never repealed after Roe, remain in effect as well. Texas maintains other laws banning abortion, including prohibitions on partial-birth abortion and dismemberment abortion.

The state's informed consent law requires the physician providing an abortion to conduct a sonogram and discuss it with the patient 24 hours before the abortion procedure. Texas also has statutes related to parental consent and notification, and licensing requirements for abortion clinics that no longer operate in the state.

Given the harsh statutes, many women seeking abortions in Texas travel to other states for the procedure, despite Texas trying to prevent that option as well.

Texas Abortion Laws at a Glance

Provisions of Texas's Human Life Protection Act and other key abortion laws appear in the table below. See FindLaw's Reproductive Rights section to learn more general information related to abortion regulations.

Relevant Texas Abortion Statutes (Laws)

Texas Statutes and Codes

Health and Safety Code, Chapter 170A, Performance of Abortion

Texas Family Code, Chapter 33, Notification and Consent to Abortion

When Is Abortion Legal?


In Texas, abortion is only legal when a physician determines that it is necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant patient or prevent a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant patient. The physician's findings must be based on the exercise of reasonable medical judgment.

In all other circumstances, abortion is prohibited.


Consent Requirements


Other than cases of medical emergency, an adult patient must provide an informed and voluntary consent. For a minor, there must be notice and consent from a parent or legal guardian or a court order granting a waiver of such notice and consent (judicial bypass).


Criminal Penalties

Pregnant person: The pregnant person on whom an abortion is performed does not face criminal or civil penalties.

Physicians and others: A physician, health care provider, or other person who performs or induces an illegal abortion faces both criminal and/or civil penalties.

If a pregnancy is terminated via abortion, the physician or other provider can face prison time of five to 99 years or life imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both. If a fetus survives an abortion, they can face two to 20 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. In both situations, they may also lose their license to practice in Texas.

The Texas Attorney General can also seek civil penalties of $100,000 per incident, plus attorney fees and court costs.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

How Texas Compares to Other States

Even before Dobbs sent the issue of abortion back to the states, Texas law included bans, restrictions, and obstacles to obtaining an abortion. Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are both strongly opposed to legal abortion.

The Republican majority in the state legislature likewise opposes abortion and the right for women to make choices concerning their bodies. They have blocked efforts that they see as supporting abortion rights.

Texas is one of about 14 states that ban abortion under almost all circumstances. As a result, Texans who seek to exercise reproductive rights often leave the state to do so.

Abortion care remains legal in other western states like New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado. As of 2024, abortion remains legal, at least until fetal viability, in 29 states at this time. Other states may ban abortion at an earlier point in pregnancy.

A Note About Medication Abortion

A recent study reports that in 2023 some 63 percent of abortions in the U.S. occurred through medication abortion. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the common two-drug regimen of abortion pills in 2000. The FDA later amended its rules related to its prescription and distribution. This resulted in expanded medication abortion access nationwide.

In 2022, abortion opponents filed a federal lawsuit in Texas, seeking to overturn FDA approval and rule changes for mifepristone, one of the drugs involved in medication abortion.

At the same time, several state attorneys general filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington state to maintain access to the drug in states where abortion remains legal.

The U.S. Supreme Court has placed lower court rulings on hold as it hears the case. A decision is expected in 2024.

Research the Law

Texas Abortion Laws: Related Resources

Have Concerns About Texas Abortion Laws? Talk to a Local Attorney

If you have concerns about Texas abortion laws or need to know what medical care is available to you, consider seeking legal advice. Contact a skilled healthcare lawyer or family law attorney in Texas today.


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