AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A group of Texas abortion providers sued the state on Monday, asking a state court to temporarily block Texas’ pre-Roe laws on the books, which Attorney General Ken Paxton said are now enforceable after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Within hours of the Supreme Court’s Friday decision, Paxton sent out an advisory stating that abortions are “now illegal here,” citing 1920s-era Texas statutes that existed before Roe v. Wade was first decided in 1973. Paxton said under those laws, “providers could be criminally liable for providing abortions.”
He noted that the state’s trigger ban, which bans the majority of abortions, will not take effect for approximately two months or longer. That’s because the trigger ban is scheduled to take effect 30 days after issuance of the judgment from the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Supreme Court has only so far issued its opinion.
Still, Paxton said because of Texas’ pre-Roe laws, he would support prosecutors who “choose to immediately pursue criminal prosecutions based on violations of Texas abortion prohibitions predating Roe that were never repealed by the Texas Legislature.”
“Mr. Paxton’s and the Texas Legislature’s attempts to greenlight the immediate prosecution of abortion providers based on violations of the Pre-Roe Ban must not stand,” the lawsuit says. “…Under the weight of this threat, they have stopped providing abortions.”
Even with the trigger law not in effect yet, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said abortion services in Texas “stopped immediately” after the Supreme Court’s decision.
“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,” Northup said in a statement.
Last year, the Republican-led legislature passed HB 1280, or the “trigger law,” which was written in anticipation of Roe v. Wade being overturned. The law prohibits all abortions except under limited circumstances, such as a “life-threatening condition to the mother caused by the pregnancy.”
In the lawsuit, the providers said if the court grants them an order to block Texas’ pre-Roe law, they would be able to continue providing abortions up to six weeks’ of pregnancy, at least untile the trigger law goes into effect.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas providers could be sued by private citizens for giving abortions once cardiac activity was detected, which is typically around six weeks. Abortions during that time frame will no longer be allowed once the trigger law kicks in.
KXAN reached out to the Attorney General’s office for comment but did not immediately hear back.
In a tweet, Paxton said he expected the lawsuit and that the providers “will lose.”
More than a half a dozen of providers are suing. A hearing on the providers’ request for a temporary restraining order is set for 9:30 a.m. CT in Harris County District Court.