It seems like almost every day, some state is acting up when it comes to abortion — and once again, it's Texas's turn. Recently, a group of abortion rights groups sued Texas over an anti-abortion law basically giving people a financial incentive to sue providers. Set to come into effect on Sept. 1, the law would make it increasingly difficult for people to access abortion care by opening up health care workers to increased risks for performing the procedure.
Nationwide, so-called heartbeat laws have become a popular way of limiting abortion access. And in May, Texas followed suit with its own Senate Bill 8. Signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, the law banned pretty much all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. To be clear, those can be found as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, which is earlier than most people even know they're pregnant.
However, Texas added its own twist to help enforce those restrictions. Under the new law, private citizens can sue people who help others access abortions. That includes not only providers, but anyone who otherwise "aids" a patient in accessing an abortion — like, say, helping to cover the cost. If the lawsuit is successful, they may receive at least $10,000 in damages.
On Tuesday, several groups in the state, including Whole Woman's Health, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal lawsuit, writing in the complaint that the legislature's "well-documented hostility to the rights of pregnant people has gone to a new extreme." The lawsuit also stated that the new law "will force abortion providers and others who are sued to spend massive amounts of time and money to defend themselves in lawsuits across the state in which the deck is heavily stacked against them.”
"At the heart of this battle is a stark choice between a nightmarish future in which Texans are encouraged to turn on each other by politicians who seek total control over our most personal decisions, or a much brighter one in which people facing complicated decisions about their pregnancies can get the advice, support, and care they need,: Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, said in a statement.
Miller noted that S.B. 8 will "devastate" communities across Texas, saying, "This law will prevent people from getting critical care when they need it. It will tear apart families, friendships, and communities as politicians turn them against each other for monetary reward. It's an affront to the values we share with the communities we serve, and with a majority of Texans statewide."
As I mentioned before, plenty of anti-abortion politicians have tried to latch onto heartbeat bills or six-week bans. However, as The Hill reported, federal courts have blocked similar bills that passed in North Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, and other states. Those bills were struck down because they're considered a pre-viability abortion ban.
In its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court specifically noted that states can prohibit abortions after fetal viability. Any attempts to block them beforehand runs afoul of their decision. So, you might think that S.B. 8 is doomed to fail. But by looking to private citizens to enforce the law instead of state entities, Texas has subverted the Supreme Court's ruling. And if S.B. 8 wasn't vile enough, the law also makes absolutely no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
With S.B. 8, Texas is looking to turn anti-abortionists into vigilantes. As Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement, "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."
"Worse, it will intimidate loved ones from providing support for fear of being sued," Northup continued. Because under Texas's new law, if you drive your friend to an abortion, help hook them up with access, pay medical bills, or whatever, you, too, can be sued.