Texas Abortion Recipients Not Subject to Penalty, Contrary to Online Claims

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Quick Take

Abortion is illegal in Texas, with narrow exceptions for the life and health of a pregnant patient. Those who provide abortions can face stiff penalties, but Texas law specifies that those who get an abortion are not to be penalized. Posts have been circulating online falsely claiming that those who get an abortion in Texas can face fines and prison time.


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Texas has a long history when it comes to banning abortion.

Within a decade of joining the United States in 1845, Texas had criminalized abortion. The laws remained largely unchanged until a woman using the pseudonym Jane Roe challenged the state’s laws in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted, in 1973, in ensuring the right to access abortion across the country.

The Roe v. Wade decision stood until the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson in 2022, which overruled Roe.

Texas was one of 13 states, according to the Congressional Research Service, that had a so-called “trigger law” that would ban abortion in the event Roe was overturned.

The Texas trigger law, which was passed in 2021, became effective 30 days after the Dobbs ruling, making it illegal to have an abortion in Texas outside of narrow exceptions to preserve the life and health of a pregnant patient.

The law includes penalties for those who perform an abortion, including a minimum fine of $100,000, the loss of the health care provider’s medical license, and the potential for a life-time term in prison.

It also specifies that the person who gets an abortion will not be penalized. The law does not “authorize the initiation of a cause of action against or the prosecution of a woman on whom an abortion is performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced.”

Another pre-Dobbs Texas abortion law has a similar provision. That law, commonly called SB8 or the Texas Heartbeat Act, was passed in 2021 and prohibited doctors from performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat was detectable. That law also allows anyone to sue an abortion provider who violates it.

But, like the trigger law, SB8 specifies that those who get an abortion cannot be penalized. As codified, it says, “This subchapter may not be construed to: (1) authorize the initiation of a cause of action against or the prosecution of a woman on whom an abortion is performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter.”

There was some confusion after SB8 was passed and a 26-year-old woman in Starr County, Texas, was charged for an alleged “self-induced abortion.”

The district attorney dropped the charges, though, and issued a statement saying, “In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. [Lizelle] Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her.”

Despite that, some falsehoods about the law persist online.

For example, Qasim Rashid, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Bill Foster in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 11th Congressional District, posted one such claim on X, formerly known as Twitter.

There, he wrote, in part:

“Texas SB8:

•Doctor performs abortion: $100K fine, lose license, life in prison

•Woman gets abortion: $10K fine, life in prison”

Rashid appears to have conflated the penalties from the Texas trigger law with the penalties under SB8. But, more importantly, he falsely claimed that those who get an abortion would be subject to penalties.

That post has been copied and shared as a screenshot meme on other platforms, too.

We asked Rashid’s campaign for evidence to support the claim and were provided with links to two news stories, neither of which substantiated the claim.

In fact, one of the articles provided by the campaign says, “The statute specifically prohibits prosecuting a pregnant patient who undergoes an abortion.”


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

Texas State Law Library. History of Abortion Laws. Accessed 15 Feb 2024.

U.S. Department of State, Office of the the Historian. “The Annexation of Texas, the Mexican-American War, and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, 1845–1848.” Accessed 15 Feb 2024.

Roe v. Wade. Case no. 70-18. U.S. Supreme Court. 22 Jan 1973.

Dobbs v. Jackson. Case no. 19–1392. U.S. Supreme Court. 24 Jun 2022.

Congressional Research Service. “State Laws Restricting or Prohibiting Abortion.” Updated 22 Mar 2023.

Texas State Legislature. Bill history HB 1280. Last action 16 Jun 2021.

Texas State Law Library. “Does Texas have trigger laws related to abortion?” Updated 9 Nov 2023.

Texas State Legislature. Bill history SB 8. Last action 19 May 2021.

Shapero, Julia. “Texas district attorney to drop murder charge in ‘self-induced abortion.’” Axios. 10 Apr 2022.

Ramirez, Gocha Allen. District Attorney, 229th Judicial District. Statement. 10 Apr 2022.

Nelson, Sydney. Spokeswoman, Qasim Rashid. Email to FactCheck.org. 15 Feb 2024.

Klibanoff, Eleanor. “Texans who perform abortions now face up to life in prison, $100,000 fine.” Texas Tribune. 25 Aug 2022.

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