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Abortions are about to be outlawed, but how will Texas enforce it?

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade means a reversal of women's right to abortions, but what's next and how it will be enforced remain unknown.

HOUSTON — In the wake of the Supreme Court's bombshell decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the aftermath remains unclear.

We know it means a reversal of women's long-held right to abortions, but what's next and when it will be enforced remain unknown.

“I think it’s clear that this opinion has a chilling effect on abortions across the state of Texas,” KHOU 11 Legal Analyst Carmen Roe said.

Roe said that the first thing to understand in the law's enforcement is that Friday's opinion is the first step -- more will follow.

“The most important thing to know is we don’t even have an enforcement date," Roe said.

It could be a month before the Court's judgment could be issued.

University of Houston Associate Professor of Law Emily Berman said that after the Court's judgment is issued, the Texas trigger law, which passed in 2021, would take effect.

“Which says that abortions will be illegal in Texas 30 days after a Supreme Court judgment,” Berman said.

The specific date will be determined when the judgment is issued, but how violators (those who perform an abortion with the trigger law in effect) could be punished is potentially both a civil and criminal matter, according to Roe.

“The real threat here is criminal charges. Because the charges for any person who performs an abortion – or even assists – is a felony and they could face up to life in prison if the fetus should die in the course of that process,” Roe said.

Whether or not someone is charged could depend on who their district attorney is.

“Democratic District Attorneys who are elected have said -- pretty much generally -- that they are not going to enforce the law whereas in Republican District Attorney areas ... they have said clearly that they will enforce the law,” Roe said.

Roe said the threat to those performing or assisting in abortion under the trigger law is enough to stop abortions for the foreseeable future.

“Those people are scared to death that they will be charged and that they will be sued under all of the provisions that currently exist," Roe said. "And, so again, it’s a chilling effect that will ultimately stop abortions in Texas for any woman who is seeking one.”

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