In a highly anticipated move, Texas abortion providers filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against the state’s draconian six-week abortion ban, Senate Bill 8, which would empower private citizens to enforce the law.
“The Texas legislature’s well-documented hostility to the rights of pregnant people has gone to a new extreme,” reads the lawsuit, filed by groups including Whole Woman’s Health and Planned Parenthood, along with abortion support fund groups, doctors, health clinic staff and clergy members. “Senate Bill 8 flagrantly violates the constitutional rights of Texans seeking abortion and upends the rule of law in service of an anti-abortion agenda.”
The extreme anti-abortion law, which offers no exception for rape or incest, bars the procedure when embryonic cardiac activity is detected, which is around six weeks – before most women even know they are pregnant – amounting to a near-total ban. It also gives any private citizen, including anti-choice activists unrelated to the patient, the right to sue an abortion provider, rather than tasking the state with enforcement.
In fact, any person that “aids or abets” abortion care, such as a friend or family member that pays for abortion or a sexual assault counselor who calls a clinic on behalf of a patient, could be targeted, potentially opening the floodgates to harassing lawsuits that could push abortion clinics into forced closure.
Although abortion patients cannot be sued under SB8, any “abusive partner, controlling parent, or disapproving neighbor” could go after the patient’s doctor in court, the lawsuit notes. While those who sue can collect a minimum of $10,000 if they are successful, those unjustly sued cannot recover legal fees.
Courts have halted so-called “heartbeat” laws in a dozen other states, but the private enforcement provision in SB8 is the first of its kind in the US.
The law violates Texans’ constitutional right to privacy and liberty as established by Roe v Wade and the right to free speech and equal protection for abortion providers, the lawsuit claims.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: The Guardian, Mary Tuma