Jun 27, 2022 - News

Texas GOP could give DAs power to prosecute abortions outside their counties

Ken Paxton in a checkered suit
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot said in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling overturning Roe v. Wade that his office won't "stand in the way" of someone "seeking the health care they need."

Why it matters: While Attorney General Ken Paxton confirmed on Twitter that "abortion is now illegal in Texas," the decision to prosecute abortion-related crimes will likely fall to district attorneys.

  • Paxton also said in an advisory that "some prosecutors may choose to immediately pursue criminal prosecutions based on violations of Texas abortion prohibitions predating Roe that were never repealed by the Texas Legislature."

Yes, but: Under Texas's trigger law, which will go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues its official judgment in the case overturning Roe, Paxton could override local district attorneys and go after abortion providers and funds, according to Vox.

How it works: The Texas law creates a first-degree felony offense for providing or aiding in any abortion starting at fertilization — and could result in lifetime prison sentences.

  • Paxton can't prosecute abortion providers under the law on his own.
  • He can, however, seek civil penalties of up to $100,000 per abortion.

Whole Woman's Health, America's largest independent abortion provider, already halted abortions at its four Texas clinics, per the Texas Tribune.

The intrigue: At least one Republican state representative — Briscoe Cain from Houston — wants to introduce legislation that would allow district attorneys to prosecute abortion-related crimes outside of their jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson tweeted that her office "followed Roe v. Wade when it was the law" and will "follow Texas state law now."

  • Wilson's Democratic opponent in the November election, Tiffany Burks, tweeted that she is one of the majority of Americans who "support Roe."
  • The DAs in Collin and Denton counties haven't publicly commented since the Supreme Court's ruling.

Zoom out: More than 80 elected prosecutors have already committed to not enforcing abortion bans, including Creuzot and the DAs in Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

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