Federal Judge Rules Texas Abortion Funds Safe from Prosecution

A federal judge issued a ruling stating that Texas abortion funds are unlikely to be charged for helping individuals travel out of state for abortion procedures. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman temporarily blocked prosecutors in eight counties from pursuing charges against anyone who helps a person get an abortion outside of Texas.

In the lawsuit, nonprofit groups that provide funding for abortions and related expenses, including out-of-state travel, hotels, and child care, cited concerns over Attorney General Ken Paxton and state lawmakers expressing an intent to prosecute abortion funds.

In his ruling, Pitman analyzed Texas’ three abortion laws: Senate Bill 8, the so-called trigger law, and pre-Roe statutes. Pitman found that since SB 8 is enforced through private civil lawsuits, neither Paxton nor local prosecutors play any role in enforcing that statute.

The trigger law, which criminalizes anyone who performs an abortion except to save the life of the pregnant person, cannot be enforced beyond state lines, Pitman noted.

That leaves only the pre-Roe statutes, which come with a two to ten years’ prison sentence for anyone who performs or provides the means for an abortion. Pitman found that these laws could potentially be interpreted to criminalize someone in Texas who helped pay for an abortion out of state. However, Pitman also argued that the pre-Roe statutes have been repealed and cannot be used to prosecute anyone.

Pitman ruled that Paxton could not enforce Texas’ abortion bans against anyone who helped pay for an abortion out of state and dismissed him from the lawsuit.

He enjoined named district attorneys and a county attorney from enforcing the pre-Roe statutes against abortion funds while the case proceeds.

The temporary injunction indicates that abortion funds may not be prosecuted for helping individuals travel out of state for abortion procedures.

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