Groups Try to Block Texas Law Allowing Citizen Abortion Suits

Planned Parenthood, ACLU call legislation unconstitutional, intimidation tool
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2021 1:00 PM CDT
Suit Fights Texas Abortion Law Allowing Suits From Citizens
Texas state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, center at lectern, stands with fellow lawmakers in the House Chamber in Austin in May in opposition to a bill restricting abortion access.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A new Texas law inviting citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion has been challenged in federal court. Several advocacy groups, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Austin against the law, which is scheduled to take effect in September. Opponents say the bill is unconstitutional and would reduce available support resources for pregnant women. "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," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Worse, it will intimidate loved ones from providing support for fear of being sued." Clinics that provide abortion access say the law essentially would shut them down.

Under the measure, it's not just clinics that could be sued but anyone who helps a patient who's more than six weeks pregnant by providing transportation, lodging, recovery care, child care, money, or other support, per NBC. Doctors could be taken to court. The suits could be filed by a spouse or parent, for example, and seek up to $10,000. Other states have passed legislation with similar deadlines that judges already have blocked. The fact that these would be private lawsuits, not enforcements by government officials, could make the Texas measure harder to stop from taking effect. The suit filed Tuesday responds to that by targeting every state trial court judge and county court clerk in Texas, as well as state medical boards and the attorney general. It asks that county clerks not be allowed to accept the citizen lawsuits and that trial judges not be allowed to enforce the measure. (Read more anti-abortion laws stories.)

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