Author: Tierney Snyder | CNN
A sort of Texas law Banning abortion as early as six weeks after pregnancy could provide a script for the Red State to pass extreme abortion restrictions-without waiting for the Supreme Court to review Rowe v. Wade.
The measure-signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May-prohibits abortion providers from performing abortions after detecting a fetal heartbeat. According to opponents of the law, it will effectively prohibit at least 85% of abortions in the state because it is about six weeks pregnant, before some women know they are pregnant.
law Effective Wednesday morning After the Supreme Court and the Federal Court of Appeals did not rule on attempts to prevent it.
It passed In a series of restrictions After the confirmation by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the national Republican legislature approved these bills this year, which made the Supreme Court lean further to the right and made the court more likely to be completely reduced or reduced. reverse Rowe v. Wade, The landmark decision of 1973 established the constitutional right to abort before the fetus is feasible.
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But among these restrictions, the Texas bill stands out because of its novel approach in reducing procedures.
State law does not impose criminal or regulatory penalties on people who perform abortions after pregnancy. Instead, they set up so-called “private litigation rights” to enforce restrictions. Essentially, the legislature represents ordinary citizens in civil lawsuits against providers or even anyone who helps women have an abortion six weeks later — threatening losses of $10,000 or more.
Adriana Piñon, an attorney for the Texas Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNN: “The way the bill is structured incentivizes lynching proceedings that will harass abortion providers and Support those who provide abortion in Texas.”
This approach is designed to protect the law from federal legal challenges that may prevent it from taking effect. Such lawsuits filed by several clinics represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are now embroiled in complex procedural disputes, prompting the clinics to request the Supreme Court to intervene, but they have not arrived as of 1:30 am EST on Wednesday.
As a result, while the legal battle is unfolding, Texas suppliers may have to decide whether they are willing to risk expensive lawsuits brought by private plaintiffs seeking damages under state law.
If the clinic violates the six-week ban, anti-abortion activists are ready to file a lawsuit.
John Seago, director of the right to life legislation in Texas, said: “This entire mechanism is only effective if there is a credible threat, if an industry decides to ignore the law and be sued,” he strongly advocated. Abortion ban. “So, we have been working hard to ensure that all these parts are in place. If we do have a report and we do see evidence of their violation of the law, then we can actually enforce the law ourselves.”
Seago told CNN that part of the motivation for pushing the law was that in October, a coalition of state and local attorneys from across the country issued a letter vowing not to enforce the anti-abortion law, even if roe Was overthrown.
Although the previous proposals of the anti-abortion movement included civil liability, the Texas ban is unique because it is built entirely around this threat. How does it expand who can sue under this measure-“anyone”, except government officials, According to the text -It is also novel in the context of abortion, he said.
“One of the biggest benefits of the anti-abortion movement, and one of the most exciting things, is that they played a role in enforcing this law,” Sigo said.
Impact on the clinic
Abortion rights advocates say the impact of the law will disproportionately fall on low-income people Will not be able to travel abroad Collection procedures.
Once the law goes into effect, the average distance that an abortion patient must travel will increase from 12 miles to 248 miles. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization on reproductive rights.
The clinic needs to hire a lawyer to defend itself. If these civil lawsuits are successful, the state court can close the clinic. The measure also includes a provision that even if the clinic wins the case in court, it will prevent the clinic from recovering attorney fees from legal opponents.
“The people who will file these lawsuits are the people my employees see every day,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, whose company is based in Texas. Operates four clinics and is filing a lawsuit in federal court to block the law. “They yelled at them on the way to work, they knew their names, they knew what car they drove, so this is not abstract for our clinic staff and doctors.”
The Texas Right to Life Program launched a reminder line to allow people to report evidence of violations of the ban. Legislative Director Seago also said that he expects “sidewalk consultants,” in his words, and the counseling center during pregnancy may also participate in the lawsuit.
In addition, the law causes civil damage to anyone who “knowingly…helps or abets” an abortion after an abnormal heartbeat, even if it excludes the responsibility of the woman undergoing an abortion.
The language is vague, but it raises concerns that family members who drive patients to undergo abortions or donors of abortion funds that help pay for abortions will be vulnerable to civil lawsuits.
Can the law withstand legal challenges?
Seago touts that the structure of the law — and how it empowers citizens to bring civil actions — will make it more flexible to the type of “back and forth” federal courts that prevented abortion restrictions in the past.
Normally, when a state passes abortion restrictions, abortion rights advocates sue government officials responsible for enforcing criminal or administrative penalties (such as the attorney general or supervisory committee) and require the court to order that these officials prevent these officials from restricting them before enforcing these laws. Take effect.
By handing over the enforcement of the injunction to private civil litigants, proponents of the Texas measure hope to deprive their legitimate enemies of the opportunity to allow the federal court to block the measure before the measure takes effect.
However, at the same time, let Texas continue to advance this final result roe Nevertheless, blue cities and states may adopt this strategy for their policy preferences, such as enacting gun control restrictions enforced by private plaintiffs.
In any case, if Texas is allowed to implement the law permanently, it seems likely that other red states will follow this approach to restrict abortion.
“We have listened to the opinions of the states that are drafting some legislation that uses this method for enforcement mechanisms,” Seago added.
This story was updated after the law went into effect on Wednesday morning.
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