An anti-abortion law in Texas will soon allow any US citizen to sue Texas-based abortion clinics, doctors, and anyone who assists with an abortion. If successful, the petitioner, who does not have to reside in Texas, will receive a $10,000 reward and the cost of attorney’s fees. Pro-choice supporters fear the prize money will create a new cottage industry of aggressive anti-abortion bounty hunters.
The provision, which was passed by the Texas state legislature this spring, is part of a broader anti-abortion bill that will ban all abortions after a doctor detects a fetal heartbeat, usually around six weeks.
Many don’t know they’re pregnant for six weeks. For most people, a six-week ban would prevent access to abortion just two weeks after a missed period.
The law is due to come into force on September 1 and abortion clinic lawyers are unsure how to reprimand it because the government is not the enforcement body. In the past, six-week bans in other states have all been ruled unconstitutional as they progress through the legal system.
This “legal hack” could be a way around that.
Typically, government agencies shut down or challenge abortion clinics accused of breaking the law, and the clinics then have a way to challenge the constitutionality of state law in court. By delegating Americans to sue themselves, clinics and doctors can no longer use this method.
An organization like Planned Parenthood would normally go to court and sue Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton before the bill is signed into law, but since he’s not the enforcer, they have to wait until be prosecuted itself.
Opening the ability to sue to all Americans could also inundate clinics with lawsuits, overwhelming their limited legal and monetary resources. Even if they end up winning business, time and money will run out.
“Every citizen is now a private attorney general,” said Josh Blackman, professor of constitutional law at the South Texas College of Law Houston. “You can have random people who are against abortion to start suing tomorrow.”
More than 370 Texas attorneys, including county prosecutors, current and former elected officials, former judges and law professors wrote a letter to the state legislature in early spring expressing concerns about the law Project.
“In an attempt to avoid a constitutional challenge that the state will likely lose, these bills are drafted to prevent any state actor from enforcing them, but allow ‘anyone’ to use the courts of the state of Texas. to enforce the existing 28 regulations and the new unconstitutional ban,” the letter read.
The bill, critics said, is an “affront” to our system of government. “By allowing anyone in the country to sue, we would be opening the doors of our courthouse to harassing and frivolous lawsuits against doctors, which would put more strain on our already overburdened court system,” the judge said. of Dallas County, Clay Jenkins, in a statement.
Other Texas legal officials have expressed concern that the bill is broad enough to allow sexual predators to profit from their assaults. “The bill is so extreme that it could even allow a rapist to sue a doctor for providing care to a survivor of sexual assault and the rapist to recover damages,” wrote the lawyer for the Travis County, Delia Garza.
Although the bill does not allow convicted felons to sue, abortion rights advocates say the bill’s language is vague and the majority of rapes and assaults go unreported.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott supported the provision, citing his religious beliefs.
“Our Creator gave us the right to life, yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said at a bill signing ceremony in may. The Legislature “has worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I am about to sign into law that ensures the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
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