Abortion rights activists on Tuesday (July 13) filed a federal lawsuit in Texas looking to block a new law in the state that bans abortions as early as six weeks, The Washington Post reports. The bill, known as S.B. 8, also allows private citizens to enforce this rule by suing anyone who helps a person get an abortion.
Although a dozen states have passed laws banning abortion after six weeks, The Texas law—which is set to take effect on September 1—will award private citizens at least $10,000 if they successfully wage court battles against anyone who aids someone getting an abortion. Helping someone get an abortion could mean paying for the procedure, or even driving the person to the clinic. As The Post reports, “even religious leaders who counsel a pregnant woman considering an abortion could be liable, according to the lawsuit filed in Austin by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several other groups.”
Abortion providers in Texas say the new bill is unconstitutional. “The state has put a bounty on the head of any person or entity who so much as gives a patient money for an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement released to The Post. “Worse, it will intimidate loved ones from providing support for fear of being sued.”
“It’s really, really scary for me to imagine the people we pass through to go to work on a daily basis, who yell at us . . . now have the authority and ability to sue me at will,” Marva Sadler, director of clinical services for Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, told The Post. “Not only is it an attack on the access, but it absolutely feels like a personal threat as well.”
The Texas law, which includes an exception for abortion in case of medical emergencies, does not make any exemptions for cases of rape or incest. Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion service provider and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a press conference that the restrictions outlined in the bill “disproportionately impact people of color, minors, low-income people and undocumented individuals,” The Texas Tribune reports.
“I can think of few things more unethical than denying a patient care that I could safely provide, knowingly they may seek unsafe alternatives,” Kumar told The Tribune. “This is why I trained in providing abortion care and why I chose to do this work in Texas, where access is already abysmal.”