Abortion Provider Files Lawsuit to Stop New Texas Law Before It’s Implemented

A leading abortion provider in Texas on Tuesday sued judges, medical licensing officials and a host of others who may be involved in enforcing a new law banning abortion for most women. of State.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court by Whole Woman’s Health, seeks to prevent Senate Bill 8 from taking effect as planned in September. The law allows people to sue abortion clinics, doctors and others who help women access the procedure in Texas after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks from now. pregnancy.

Describing a “nightmarish future” in which Texans are “encouraged to look back,” Whole Woman President and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said the lawsuit is part of a larger effort that she and others undertook to anticipate the law.

“This is by far the most extreme restriction on abortion I’ve ever seen,” she said, urging people outside of Texas to “heed it.” “If this law is allowed to apply in Texas, it won’t be long before it appears in other states.”

Like other clinics in Texas, nearly all abortions at Whole Woman’s Health clinics take place after six weeks, because most women don’t know at that time that they are pregnant. At least 85% of procedures in Texas are done after six weeks, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

While several states have enacted similar six-week bans, the Texas law is the first to entrust enforcement to private citizens, rather than government officials. This makes it difficult for abortion providers to sue before it takes effect, as it is unclear who to target. The providers have successfully blocked further six-week bans as the courts consider their constitutionality.

The suit says the new law violates Texans’ right to privacy and the right of abortion providers to equal protection, among other freedoms. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents plaintiffs alongside the American Civil Liberties Union and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The lawsuit comes at a time of massive uncertainty about the future of abortion access in much of the South and Midwest, where restrictions put in place over the past decade have already constrained several clinics to close.

Anti-abortion activists hunt down whistleblowers

State legislatures passed more new procedural limitations this year than in any year since the Roe v. Wade of the United States Supreme Court in 1973, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights and tracks abortion access data. The conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court is also set to hear a case involving a 15-week Mississippi ban that could have broad implications for other states in hopes of further scaling back protections. federal laws on abortion.

In addition to the fetal heart rate bill, Texas Republicans also hope to pass legislation this month that would ban providers from dispensing abortion drugs through the mail. This would further limit the options available to women if the state were to lose more of its relatively few abortion clinics. Patients in small towns and rural areas often have to travel hours to get to the nearest clinic.

Hagstrom Miller said the Texas law has already impacted its facilities, making it more difficult to recruit new employees who worry about short-term job viability and creating aggressive interactions between patients, employees and anti-abortion rights activists.

She described a scenario in which activists entered a clinic and began soliciting whistleblowers who could provide information for future civil lawsuits. The lawsuit names Right to Life East Texas director Mark Lee Dickson as a defendant in the case, and includes a letter allegedly distributed at one of four Whole Woman’s Health clinics in the state.

“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 said.

In interviews earlier this year, opponents of abortion rights speculated that there would be no onslaught of lawsuits in September, as providers fret.

“We don’t know exactly what path they’ll go in exactly, where we’ll see the most success or if we’ll even see success,” John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, said in May.

Texas Republicans hope to eventually ban abortion in almost all cases. Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican seeking re-election next year, said in May when he signed Senate Bill 8 that “millions of children lose their right to life every year cause of abortion” and that “in Texas, we are working to save those lives.

There were about 54,000 abortions performed in Texas last year, according to state data.

A victory in Lubbock for the enemies of abortion

The dispute filed on Tuesday could experience a difficult legal process.

Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood, which owns several clinics in the state, filed a lawsuit to block a new order from Lubbock that uses a similar enforcement strategy. The lawsuit was dismissed after a judge ruled that the supplier had not yet shown that it had been harmed by the measure. Planned Parenthood has since asked the court to reconsider its decision and said it stopped offering abortions to Lubbock.

Hagstrom Miller said she and others involved in the lawsuit, including other abortion providers, abortion funds, clinic staff and clergy, are closely following the Lubbock case and were preparing for all the results. While some legal scholars have suggested providers could protest the law by continuing to perform abortions after six weeks in September, Hagstrom Miller said it would be logistically difficult and she was unwilling to ask its staff to defy a law that could leave it vulnerable to malpractice claims.

There is broad support in Texas for keeping abortion access at least as available as it is now, according to a poll by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. But a survey released in June found that Texans are fairly evenly divided on the six-week ban and the citizen-led enforcement mechanism.

Nationally, nearly 60% of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a poll conducted this year by the Pew Research Center. This percentage has remained fairly stable in recent years.

“We must remember that this law does not represent the feelings and beliefs of the majority of people in Texas or in this country,” Hagstrom Miller said. “And I think we have to keep that in mind and have hope, even in the shadow of something that seems so overwhelming in the short term.”

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