What Are the Penalties for Abortion, Rape in Texas Amid Claims They Are Similar

After Texas introduced a law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, some social media users have claimed the penalty for having an abortion in the state is now more severe than the punishments for crimes such as rape.

One such user wrote in a tweet shared thousands of times: "When the penalty for aborting after rape is more severe than the penalty for rape, that's when you know it's a war on women."

When the penalty for aborting after rape is more severe than the penalty for rape, that's when you know it's a war on women.

— mohamad safa (@mhdksafa) September 1, 2021

The legislation, named Senate Bill (SB) 8, essentially ends Roe v. Wade protections in the state. It has been dubbed the Texas "Heartbeat Act" as six weeks is the point at which the fetal heartbeat can first be detected.

The law does not contain any criminal penalties for providing what it terms "illegal abortions" but rather allows private citizens to sue providers of abortions, in addition to anyone else who assists a woman in obtaining an abortion. This could include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic or financially assists them in getting an abortion.

The law has prompted some to ask if Uber drivers carrying a woman to an abortion clinic could be sued under the act.

The citizens who take these civil actions are not required to demonstrate any connection to the woman seeking the abortion or the people who they sue. Embracing this, pro-life group Texas Right to Life has set up what it describes as a "whistleblower" website where people can anonymously report anyone they believe is breaking the law.

"These lawsuits are not against the women," John Seago with Texas Right to Life told WVXU. "The lawsuits would be against the individuals making money off of the abortion, the abortion industry itself. So this is not spying on your neighbor and seeing if they're having an abortion."

In Texas, the definition of "rape" covers several crimes including sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, and indecency with a child.

Punishments vary depending on several circumstances, including the severity of the crime and the age of the perpetrator. The minimum sentence for sexual assault is two years, whilst an assault involving a child and serious injury could result in a minimum prison sentence of 25 years.

In the state, as a second-degree felony, all three classifications carry with them a $10,000 fine for anyone convicted of them.

Coincidently, anyone who successfully sues under the SB 8 is awarded a sum of at least $10,000 for each abortion conducted. This is recovered from the person or organization that has been sued.

This means that while rape is a criminal act and action against providers of abortion is civil, the financial impact of the latter could vastly outweigh that of the former. Being sued using SB 8 also does not risk a prison sentence.

texas abortion ban, getty
A protester dressed as a handmaiden holds up a sign at a protest outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021 in Austin. Texas has enacted the country's strictest abortion law. Sergio Flores/Getty Images