Texas Gonna Ban Abortions, Let Anyone Sue Anyone Who Helps Anyone Get One
Now that the Supreme Court has a conservative majority, some states are going all out on the terrible abortion bans, in the hopes that their terrible abortion ban will be the one that makes it to the highest court in the land and leads to Roe v. Wade being overturned. And as terrible as Texas's abortion laws have been in the past, they're about to outdo themselves entirely.
On Wednesday, the Texas state Senate passed the kind of fetal heartbeat bill with which we are all now very familiar — which is why I shall spare you the traditional "It's amplified electrical impulses, the heart isn't even developed yet" spiel. Like all the other heartbeat bills, it is meant to ban pretty much all abortions, as fetal pole cardiac activity frequently starts before a missed period, the traditional first sign of pregnancy.
But this one has a little twist.
It will also allow absolutely anyone to sue anyone else who "aids and abets" an abortion that violates the statute. Specifically, anyone who:
(1) performs or induces an abortion in violation of this chapter;
(2) knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this chapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this chapter.
If the random person suing the abortion abetter wins their case, they will be awarded "adjunctive relief sufficient to prevent the defendant from violating this chapter or engaging in acts that aid or abet violations of this chapter," which will be at least $10,000.
This would mean that if you, a person who is not even a resident of Texas, were to give your friend some money to help pay for their abortion, some creepy random anti-choicer (who also doesn't have to be a resident of Texas) could hypothetically sue you and you would have to give them over $10,000. The statute of limitations on this is six years, and can be retroactive. Meaning that if a court blocks the legislation, but then Roe v. Wade is overturned and it's allowed to go through, someone who funded or performed an abortion while it was blocked can still be civilly sued.
Those who are sued cannot recover lawyers' fees in the event the suit is thrown out. Which means that anti-choice groups could just go around suing any provider or abortion fund whether or not they have standing and financially hobble them that way.
It could also make rape into a lucrative money-making venture. A man could go around raping women and then, if they end up getting pregnant and get an abortion (as this bill provides no exceptions for victims of rape or incest), sue everyone involved for over $10,000. While an amendment was added to "prevent" this, it likely would not do much to help those who did not report their rape and would not prevent friends or relatives of said rapist from cashing in.
The bill justifies these civil suits in the bill by suggesting that Roe v. Wade only protects the rights of women to have an abortion, not the right of anyone to fund them.
(a) A defendant against whom an action is brought under Section 171.208 does not have standing to assert the rights of women seeking an abortion as a defense to liability under that section unless:
(1 The United States Supreme Court holds that the courts of this state must confer standing on that defendant to assert the third-party rights of women seeking an abortion in state court as a matter of federal constitutional law; or 2) The defendant is an abortion provider, an employee of an abortion provider, or a physician who performs abortions.
(b) A defendant in an action brought under Section 171.208 may assert an affirmative defense to liability under this section only if:
(1)The defendant has standing to assert the third-party rights of women seeking an abortion in accordance with Subsection (a); and (2) The defendant demonstrates that the relief sought by the claimant will impose an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.
The bill was initially introduced in the House by Rep. Shelby Slawson, who explained that the impetus for the bill was the fact that doctors had advised her mother to have an abortion due to potential complications with the pregnancy.
"Now 44 years and two days later, that little baby girl is standing in this chamber, her heart beating as strongly and as rapidly as it did all those years ago, as she lays out before you Senate Bill 8," Rep Slawson explained while introducing the bill to the Senate.
That is lovely. Really. It's nice that she turned out to be okay and that the doctors were wrong. It's even understandable that she has some feelings about abortion as a result of that, and may never want to get one herself as a result. But it's highly unlikely that the doctors were just lying to her mom because they wanted more abortions to happen. Her mother had the ability to choose whether or not to have an abortion, she was allowed to go against the advice of her doctors, and that worked out great for her. That doesn't mean that is the right choice for everyone.
Democratic state legislators tried to explain to Rep. Slawson that the "science" behind her bill was fundamentally flawed, to no avail.
"I value life. My pregnancies, I was very grateful for my children and grandchildren, I'm very grateful for it, but it doesn't always work that way for everybody," Rep. Donna Howard, D – Austin, began at the podium.
"According to the science, the Doppler fetal monitor that has that sound that you gave us a while ago, is not actually the sound of a heartbeat, but an amplified version of signals. You're not hearing a heartbeat, you're hearing an amplified version of electrical signals. Did you know that?" Rep. Howard questioned.
Rep. Slawson said she fundamentally disagreed with that fact.
"Representative, I've had a lot of ultrasounds and they never once referenced an electrical impulse. It was measured in beats per minute," Rep. Slawson said.
"I'm just telling you what the science says. And I can't say what you've been told. I'm telling you what the science is now," Rep. Howard said.
A group of 200 physicians in Texas sent out an open letter to the legislature explaining that the bill would result in chaos and the deterioration of the doctor-patient relationship.
We are specifically concerned that SB 8/HB 1515 grants "any person" the right to sue physicians and medical staff who may provide information or referrals for abortion care. This right to sue includes individuals who do not reside in Texas or have any connection to our patients.
The language of SB 8/HB 1515 is written so broadly that the private cause of action could apply to all specialties, regardless of the type of medical care we provide. This includes pediatrics, primary care, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and internal medicine, to name just a few. It would impact all types of healthcare facilities, from private practices to community health centers and hospitals. Patients facing difficult medical decisions should be able to openly consult with their physicians about every option available to them in order to make an informed choice.
When the state interferes in the doctor-patient relationship by enacting medically unnecessary restrictions or preventing us from making appropriate referrals for healthcare that a patient has decided to receive, it impedes open communication and can cause confusion and mistrust.
The bill is now being sent back to the House for another vote before being sent to Governor Greg Abbott's desk to be signed, which it very likely will be.
Texas has next on this. A heartbeat bill is making its way through the Texas legislature. I look forward to signi… https://t.co/WhZctkPbpW— Greg Abbott (@Greg Abbott)1619461267.0
Every heartbeat bill that any state has tried to pass has been blocked by the court system, but that is not going to be the case forever. The Supreme Court will almost definitely overturn Roe at some point soon — and when that happens, it's likely that the laws that states like Texas come up with to prevent them will be even worse than this.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse