HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A trigger law is now in effect, making most abortion cases illegal in Texas.
A UT-Tyler and Dallas Morning News poll taken in August showed that 13% of people who responded said abortion should be illegal in all cases, while 30% said it should be legal in most cases. A big majority, 82%, said they believe abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest.
"There can no longer be any doubt as to whether abortion is a crime in Texas," University of Houston Health Law Professor Seth Chandler said.
With the trigger law in effect, abortion, in most cases, becomes a felony. The law criminalizes any attempt by a medical professional to perform, induce or attempt an abortion, making it a second-degree felony. If the pregnancy is successfully aborted, the offense becomes a first-degree felony. Punishment for that could be up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
This law targets doctors and medical providers, not the women seeking abortions. Chandler said the trigger law puts providers in a more difficult position.
"The existing law is already terrifying doctors. This new law coming into effect just amps it up a little bit," Chandler said.
"They face potential life in prison and a felony prosecution. If they make the wrong call on the other end, they have a pregnant woman who doesn't survive," Michelle Simpson Tuegel, an attorney who represents survivors of sexual violence, said.
Tuegel said ambiguity in the law also creates danger for pregnant people and re-traumatizes the people she fights for.
"I can't help but think what a horrible predicament it is to be in where you've already had a crime against your body, and then you don't have the right to make a choice," she said.
Advocates for life who helped craft the trigger ban law have been waiting for this moment since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. Despite public opinion in favor of the procedure being legal, Chandler said more restrictions could come if conservatives gain political power.
"Pro-life forces are concerned that the law isn't strict enough because it doesn't prohibit women from leaving the state to get an abortion where it's legal," he said.
Reproductive rights groups filed a suit earlier this week to try to stop Texas officials' attempts to prosecute people who help Texans travel out of state for an abortion. The pro and anti-choice battleground now squarely occupies state courts and local ballot boxes.
"I think there will be some voters who feel that this law has just gone too far, and there needs to be some accountability," Chandler said.
"I think all people should have access to choice, but the fact that it doesn't include survivors is really a comment on how harsh and severe these laws were intended to be," Tuegel added.
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, at the Houston Women's Reproductive Services, Beto O' Rourke held a news conference holding Gov. Greg Abbott accountable for what he calls an "extreme and dangerous law."
"My female patients making a choice in my exam room should be how we provide health care. Greg Abbott is not a doctor. He did not go to medical school and do a residency. He does not understand the complexities of health care choices," Dr. Lee Bar- Eli, a Houston family doctor, said.