A new Texas abortion law effectively deputizes citizens as bounty hunters for its enforcement, as anyone under this statute can now sue parties who assist women seeking abortions, earning $10,000 if the lawsuit is successful.
Texas Senate Bill 8 will take effect on September 1, 2021. The law bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The law also allows Americans from any state to launch lawsuits against people that fund abortions, transportation, lodging, recovery care, child care, and other things that help women with their termination process.
“Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in May during the bill signing ceremony.
There are many concerns over the ban and whether it will complicate the state’s court system.
“Every citizen is now a private attorney general,” Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, said. “You can have random people who are against abortion start suing tomorrow.”
More than 370 Texas lawyers, former judges, elected officials, and law professors wrote a letter to the state legislature about the bill.
“In an attempt to avoid a constitutional challenge that the state will likely lose, these bills are drafted to remove any state actor from enforcing them, but allow ‘any person’ to use Texas state courts to enforce compliance with 28 existing regulations and the new unconstitutional ban,” the letter stated.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that the controversial bill would open Texas courts to frivolous lawsuits and harassment.
“This bill is so extreme that it could even allow a rapist to sue a doctor for providing care to a sexual assault survivor and for the rapist to recover financial damages,” Delia Garza, a Travis County lawyer, said.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, Whole Woman’s Health, Federation of America, and the ACLU of Texas fired back at the new bill with a lawsuit. The organizations believe that the law violates women’s constitutional rights and liberties granted through Roe v. Wade.
“If this oppressive law takes effect, it will decimate abortion access in Texas, and that’s exactly what it is designed to do, Nancy Northup, President, and CEO 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.”
In addition to asking the U.S. district court in Austin to overturn the law, the plaintiffs asked for an injunction that would stop it from taking effect in September.