Is It Illegal to Travel Local Roads for an Abortion in TX?

January 1, 2023 | By Shane Phelps Law
Is It Illegal to Travel Local Roads for an Abortion in TX?

In Texas, a controversial and far-reaching abortion ban has captured the nation's attention. The law, known as Senate Bill 8, went into effect on September 1, 2021, and has faced several legal challenges and adaptations.

The most recent development is the emergence of what some refer to as abortion travel bans, as individuals seeking reproductive healthcare are crossing state lines to access abortion services. Continue reading for a review of the origins of the Texas abortion ban, its legal implications, and the crucial role that attorneys play in navigating this complex legal landscape.

Lubbock's Sanctuary City for the Unborn Ordinance

Lubbock County recently passed the Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinance. This ordinance aims to restrict and discourage abortion services within the city limits by designating Lubbock as a "sanctuary" for unborn children. The ordinance imposes significant restrictions on abortion providers, healthcare facilities, and individuals seeking abortion services.

Key provisions of the Lubbock ordinance:

  • Bans Abortions Within City Limits: The ordinance explicitly bans abortions within the city limits of Lubbock. This includes a ban on abortions at any stage of pregnancy, with limited exceptions for cases where the mother's life is at risk.
  • Enforcement by Private Citizens: Similar to Texas' S.B. 8, the Lubbock ordinance empowers private citizens to sue anyone involved in performing or aiding an abortion within the city. Citizens can sue for damages, and the ordinance does not require government enforcement.
  • No Exceptions for Rape or Incest: The Lubbock ordinance does not include exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, making it one of the strictest abortion ordinances in the United States.
  • Legal Challenges: The Lubbock ordinance has faced legal challenges, with abortion rights advocates arguing that it is unconstitutional and violates the principles established in Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions.

The Origin of the Texas Abortion Ban

S.B. 8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, is central to the controversy. It effectively bans most abortions in Texas after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, often before many individuals even realize they are pregnant. What sets this law apart is the way it enforces the ban. Instead of relying on government officials for enforcement, it empowers private citizens to sue anyone involved in performing or assisting with an abortion that violates the law. This includes doctors, clinic staff, and even people who drive individuals to clinics.

  • Abortion Providers at Risk: The law places significant legal and financial risk on abortion providers. If they perform abortions that fall outside the narrow exceptions provided in the law (cases of medical emergency), they can be sued for substantial monetary damages.
  • Unprecedented Enforcement Mechanism: S.B. 8's unique enforcement mechanism has made it challenging for pro-choice advocates to challenge the law. The law circumvents traditional judicial review and allows private citizens to file lawsuits against abortion providers, making it difficult for courts to block the law proactively.
  • Traveling for Abortion: In response to the restrictions, many individuals travel out of state to access abortion services. This has given rise to the term "abortion travel bans." Such restrictions have caused emotional, financial, and logistical hardships for those who must travel long distances to exercise their reproductive rights.
  • Impact on Vulnerable Communities: The law disproportionately affects low-income individuals and those with limited access to resources. They often face additional challenges when arranging transportation, accommodation, and taking time off work.

The Role of Attorneys in These Cases

  • Challenging the Law: Attorneys play a pivotal role in challenging the constitutionality of S.B. 8. They can file lawsuits on behalf of abortion providers and advocate for the protection of reproductive rights. These legal challenges are essential in attempting to overturn the law or, at a minimum, block its enforcement.
  • Defending Abortion Providers: Attorneys are crucial in providing legal counsel and representation to abortion providers facing lawsuits under S.B. 8. They can help navigate the complex legal process and protect their client's rights and interests.
  • Advising Individuals: Attorneys can provide information and guidance to individuals seeking abortion services in Texas or those considering traveling out of state. They can help people understand their rights and options while ensuring they are fully informed about the legal landscape.
  • Advocating for Policy Changes: Attorneys can also play a vital role in advocating for policy changes at the state and federal levels to protect and expand reproductive rights. This may include efforts to pass legislation that safeguards access to abortion and to challenge laws that restrict these rights.

The right to legal representation is a cornerstone of the United States criminal justice system. It is enshrined in the Constitution to ensure that individuals accused of crimes are afforded a fair and just legal process. This article will explore the constitutional rights to an attorney and legal representation and highlight relevant Supreme Court decisions that have solidified these rights.

The Sixth Amendment: Right to Counsel

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, […] to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

The Assistance of Counsel clause is the bedrock of the right to legal representation. It guarantees that an accused individual has the right to an attorney to represent them in their criminal proceedings.

Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of indigent defendants' right to legal counsel. Clarence Gideon, a Florida man, was charged with a felony and could not afford an attorney. The state of Florida did not provide him with one, and he was forced to represent himself during the trial, resulting in a conviction.

The Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel applied to state criminal proceedings through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court declared that in all felony cases, defendants must be provided with legal representation, even if they cannot afford it. The decision in Gideon v. Wainwright ensured that indigent defendants would not be left to navigate the complexities of the criminal justice system alone.

Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

While Miranda v. Arizona did not directly address the right to legal representation, it significantly impacted the rights of criminal suspects during interrogations. In this case, the Supreme Court established the Miranda warnings, which inform suspects of their rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The Court held that suspects must be aware of these rights before custodial interrogation.

This decision reinforced the importance of legal representation in the criminal justice system by ensuring that individuals understand their rights and have access to an attorney during interrogations.

Strickland v. Washington (1984)

Strickland v. Washington is a pivotal case concerning the effectiveness of legal representation. The Supreme Court ruled that to establish a violation of the Sixth Amendment, a defendant must demonstrate two things: first, that counsel's performance was deficient, falling below the standard of reasonable professional assistance, and second, that this deficient performance prejudiced the defense, meaning it hurt the outcome of the case.

This decision underscores the importance of competent legal representation and ensures that individuals have the right to an attorney and an attorney who provides effective assistance.


The Texas abortion ban, as embodied in S.B. 8, has profoundly impacted reproductive rights in the state. It has given rise to the concept of "abortion travel bans," as women are forced to cross state lines to access essential healthcare services.

Attorneys are instrumental in challenging this restrictive law, defending abortion providers, advising individuals, and advocating for policy changes that protect reproductive rights. The legal battle over S.B. 8 is far from over, and it is a critical moment in the ongoing struggle for reproductive freedom in the United States.

The constitutional rights to an attorney and legal representation are fundamental in preserving the fairness and integrity of the criminal justice system. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an accused individual the right to counsel. Supreme Court decisions such as Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. Arizona, and Strickland v. Washington have further clarified and reinforced these rights.

Access to legal representation is a cornerstone of due process and ensures that all individuals, regardless of their financial means, receive a fair and just legal process. If you need legal representation, contact Shane Phelps Law.