In the wake of Senate Bill 8’s passage, Texas abortion providers filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday against the state’s newly-passed abortion measure, which would empower private citizens to enforce the law and offers no exception for rape or incest.
“The Texas legislature’s well-documented hostility to the rights of pregnant people has gone to a new extreme,” reads the lawsuit, filed by groups including Whole Woman’s Health and Planned Parenthood, along with abortion support fund groups, doctors, health clinic staff and clergy members. “Senate Bill 8 flagrantly violates the constitutional rights of Texans seeking abortion and upends the rule of law in service of an anti-abortion agenda.”
Known as the heartbeat bill, Senate Bill 8 bars the procedure two weeks after a menstrual cycle – before most women even know they are pregnant – amounting to a near-total ban. It also gives any private citizen, including anti-choice activists unrelated to the patient, the right to sue any individual that “aids or abets” abortion care, such as a person that pays for an abortion or a sexual assault counselor who calls a clinic on behalf of a patient. The law is set to take effect Sept. 1.
“If permitted to take effect, SB8 will create absolute chaos in Texas and irreparably harm Texans in need of abortion services,” the lawsuit reads. “S.B. 8 will force abortion providers and others who are sued to spend massive amounts of time and money to defend themselves in lawsuits across the state in which the deck is heavily stacked against them.”
The lawsuit argues that the legislation violates Texans’ constitutional right to privacy and liberty as established by Roe v Wade and the right to free speech and equal protection for abortion providers. Due to the unprecedented private enforcement provision, the suit is directed at the state trial court judge and county clerk in Texas who would be called upon to enforce the ban, as well as the Texas Medical Board, Texas Board of Pharmacy, the Texas Board of Nursing and the attorney general.