A coalition of abortion providers and advocates on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Texas law that would allow private citizens to sue anyone for helping a woman to have an abortion.
In addition to asking the U.S. District Court in Austin to overturn the law, the plaintiffs sought an injunction that would prevent it from coming into effect in September.
The law would ban abortion in the country’s second largest state after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before many women even know they are pregnant, and would ask citizens to enforce the ban by suing doctors or anyone who helps a woman to have an abortion. Among other situations, this would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic for an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $ 10,000.
The plaintiffs include members of the clergy, doctors and clinics. They are represented by Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, among others, who say the law could impose lawsuits on abortion providers that consume their time and resources and ultimately force them to close their doors.
Texas “has put a price on the head of anyone who gives money to a patient for an abortion after six weeks,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
Whole Women’s Health President and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said staff at the group’s clinics were increasingly anxious and fearful of prosecution.
“This law really asks Texans to turn on each other, neighbors to spy on each other, people to meddle in each other’s private affairs, and that does not represent the feelings and beliefs of the community. majority of people we know and this we care about in Texas, ”said Hagstrom Miller.
Opponents of the law also say its enforcement regime makes it particularly difficult to challenge in court. In other states, six-week abortion bans are enforced by government officials, allowing complainants to prosecute state officials responsible for law enforcement.
Defendants in the lawsuit include every Texas trial judge and county clerk, the Texas Medical Board, the Texas Board of Nursing, the Texas Board of Pharmacy, the state attorney general, and the director of Right to Life East. Texas, Mark Lee. Dickson, who has previously called on people to sue their local abortion providers under the law.
“The only thing more ridiculous than this lawsuit is the fact that we have people right here in Texas fighting to end the lives of innocent unborn children,” Dickson wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
Right to Life East Texas did not immediately respond to a phone message requesting comment on the lawsuit.
Rebecca Parma, senior legislative associate for Texas Right to Life, said that while a challenge wasn’t unexpected, it could be difficult.
“The unique enforcement mechanism of this law means that no case can be brought before September 1. The lawsuit therefore pursues many representatives and categories of individuals who could be involved in these lawsuits, but there are no case at this point so it’s hypothetical, ”Parma said.
The law signed by Republican Gov. of Texas Greg Abbott in May brought Texas into compliance with more than a dozen other states that have laws banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around the sixth week. But federal courts have primarily prevented states from enforcing such measures.
The Roe v. Wade’s 1973 Supreme Court established a national right to abortion any time before a fetus could survive outside the womb, approximately 24 weeks. But the Supreme Court has agreed to consider allowing the application of a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which could dramatically change nearly 50 years of legal precedent over the right to be pregnant. abortion.
The question is whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can sustainably survive outside the womb, and abortion rights activists fear a move that favors the state does lay the groundwork to allow even more restrictions, including so-called fetal heart rate bills.