May 25, 2023 Update
On May 17, a three-person panel of judges in the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held oral arguments regarding a Texas judge’s April decision to take mifepristone, a medication used in more than half of U.S. abortions, off the shelves by its longstanding FDA approval. The court entertained arguments from attorneys representing the group that sued to remove mifepristone from market (The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine) and attorneys for both the Department of Justice and the makers of the drug’s generic version, challenging the decision.
The panel appeared sympathetic to the plaintiff’s arguments and is expected, though not guaranteed, to hand down a ruling that restricts if not bans access to mifepristone. The court could also impose additional limitations on abortion access. The decision is being closely watched not only for its impact on access to this drug but for its potentially broad implications for the FDA’s drug-regulation authority. The DOJ and others, including ASRM through amici (friend of the court) briefs joined by other leading medical organizations, have warned that upending a decades-old drug approval process may have a devastating impact on access to medication for any number of conditions and needs.
Regardless of how it rules (notably, there is no deadline for the court to do so), this is expected to be just another step in a prolonged appeals process that is apt to end up before the Supreme Court. A resolution could be as far as a year away and we continue to monitor and will share developments.
April 10, 2023 Update
as of March 2023 Report
Efforts to Ban Medication Abortion
as of October 2022 Report
Summary of Current (and Most Recent) Abortion and Personhood Laws
- The Texas Governor signed into law the Human Life Protection Act in 2021. This law was drafted to go into effect 30 days after official publication of a Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, so it became effective on August 25, 2022. Tex. Health & Safety Code, §§ 170A.001 to 170A.007.
- The law prohibits performing, inducing, or attempting to perform an abortion unless a physician has determined that the pregnancy is life-threatening or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed or induced.
Civil Suits for Performing, Inducing or Aiding & Abetting Abortion
- The Texas Heartbeat Act (S.B. 8) went into effect in 2021 allowing private citizens to sue anyone who performs or induces an abortion, or knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion after a “fetal heartbeat” has been detected, except in the case of a documented medical emergency.
- The scope of conduct that “aids or abets” an abortion is unclear, except that the law specifically references paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.
- If a citizen is successful in an action the court is instructed to award damages of not less than $10,000 for each abortion, plus costs and attorney’s fees.
- The Human Life Protection Act states that it does not abolish or impair any other remedy available in a civil suit, so presumably a private citizen could continue to pursue civil actions under Texas Heartbeat Act for aiding and abetting abortion.
Pre-Roe Abortion Prohibition
- Statutes that were in effect from 1925 (and earlier) until they were “impliedly repealed” by Roe v. Wade prohibited any person administering a drug or any means to procure an abortion. Following the Dobbs decision, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that this pre-Roe law was still enforceable. Considering the more recently passed laws described above, it’s not clear 25 whether or how prosecution and enforcement of this law might be reconciled with those. Texas Rev. Civil Stat. Tit. 4512.1-.6
Potential impact of the law on and references to IVF and reproductive medicine if any
- It does not appear that current abortion restrictions in Texas will apply to IVF or other reproductive medicine services outside the context of a pregnancy.
- There are no explicit references to IVF or reproductive medicine services in current abortion laws.
- The potential civil penalties in the Texas Heartbeat Act for aiding and abetting an abortion apply only to abortions performed after detection of fetal cardiac activity within the gestational sac, so it would not be applicable to any services or procedures related to an embryo pre-implantation.
- “Abortion” means using or prescribing any instrument, drug or other means with the intent to cause the death of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant.
- “Fertilization” means the point in time when a male human sperm penetrates the zona pellucida of a female human ovum.
- “Unborn child” means in individual living member of the homo sapiens species from fertilization until birth, including the entire embryonic and fetal stages of development.
- “Fetal heartbeat” means cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.
- “Unborn child” means a human fetus or embryo in any state of gestation from fertilization until birth.
Penalties for violations of the applicable abortion restrictions
- The Human Life Protection Act includes both criminal and civil penalties, as well as disciplinary action against the licensure or permit of a physician or other health care practitioner who performs, induces, or attempts an abortion in violation of the law. Texas Health & Safety Code §§ 170A.004, 170A.005, 170A.007.
- The Texas Heartbeat Act provide for civil action by private citizens against individuals who perform or induce an abortion, or aid and abet the performance or inducement of an abortion, in violation of the law. Texas Health & Safety Code § 171.208.
as of July 2022 Report
Trigger Law Statutory Cite(s)
Texas Statutes & Court Rules | Chapter 170A. Performance of Abortion
Health & Safety Code
Does this law have a potential impact on IVF/Reproductive medicine?
Does this law explicitly reference IVF, assisted reproductive technology or reproductive medicine?
- “Abortion” is specifically defined as an act intending cause the death of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant.”
- As pregnancy requires “a living unborn child within [the pregnant woman’s] body” a fertilized embryo that is not within a pregnant woman’s body would likely not be within the scope of this law.
- he statute does define an unborn child as existing from fertilization until birth, but the prohibition is limited to abortion of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant.
Are there any penalties in this law that could apply to ART procedures?
- “Abortion” means the act of using or prescribing an instrument, a drug, a medicine, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to cause the death of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant. The term does not include birth control devices or oral contraceptives. An act is not an abortion if it is done with the intent to:
- Save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child;
- Remove a dead, unborn child whose death was caused by spontaneous abortion; or
- Remove an ectopic pregnancy.
- "Fertilization” means the point in time when a male human sperm penetrates the zona pellucida of a female human ovum.
- “Pregnant” means the female human reproductive condition of having a living or unborn child within the female’s body during the entire embryonic and fetal stages of the unborn child’s development from fertilization until birth.
- "Unborn child” means an individual living member of the homo sapiens species from fertilization until birth, including the entire embryonic and fetal stages of development.
Do the definitions/terms of the trigger law apply to other areas of state code?
What is the “trigger” for this law to take effect?
- 30 days after Roe v. Wade is overturned without further action required;
- The issuance of a Supreme Court judgment that recognizes the authority of the states to prohibit abortion; or
- Adoption of an amendment to the United States Constitution that restores to states the authority to prohibit abortion.
Key provisions: What does the law prohibit and when does it apply?
- Anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion is subject to a second-degree felony offense or a first-degree felony if the unborn child dies as a result.
- A person will also be subjected to a civil penalty of no less than $100,000 for each violation.
- A civil suit may also be brought against them.
- There is an exception for a pregnant person whose life is in danger or at serious risk of substantial and irreversible bodily function.