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07.13.2021 – Today, Texas abortion providers — led by Whole Woman’s Health — along with several abortion funds, practical support networks, doctors, health center staff, and clergy members filed a federal lawsuit to block a radical new Texas law (SB 8) set to take effect September 1. The law bans abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before most people even know they’re pregnant. It also includes an unprecedented provision that lets private individuals — including anti-abortion protestors with no connection to the patient — to file lawsuits seeking “enforcement” of the ban. 

The law allows anyone, including anti-abortion extremists, to act as bounty hunters and to take doctors, health centers, and anyone who helps — or intends to help — another person access abortion to court. Anyone who successfully sues an abortion provider will be entitled to at least $10,000 and a court order preventing them from providing abortions in the future.

Statement from Jeffrey Hons, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood South Texas:

“Abortion is health care. Women understand their choices and are capable of making their own decisions about their bodies and their futures. It is never wrong to help someone access the health care they need. You cannot walk into another person’s life and force them to remain pregnant when they do not want to be. That is reproductive coercion. By engaging in it, the state of Texas is treating women as less than fully human and that is monstrous.”

Statement from Melaney A. Linton, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast:

“At Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, we believe that all individuals must be free to control their own bodies and make their own private medical decisions without interference from anyone — least of all politicians and, should SB 8 take effect, virtual strangers deputized by the state to enforce a blatantly unconstitutional law.

“It is unthinkable that anti-abortion extremists could be allowed to stand in the way of people accessing essential health care. And SB 8 goes even further by incentivizing those extremists to pursue frivolous lawsuits against anyone who helps a person access the health care they need, which has dangerous implications for our patients, our health centers, our communities, and our entire legal system.

“While the legal strategy may be new, the intent is not: Planned Parenthood has been on the frontlines for more than a decade of concerted attacks on abortion, and SB 8 could decimate what little access remains in Texas. The courts must step in and block this cruel and egregious law on behalf of our patients, who deserve so much better.”

Statement from Ken Lambrecht, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas:

“For more than 85 years, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas has trusted Texans to make their own personal health care decisions. Today, more than ever, we are committed to individuals making private decisions about abortion without political interference. We’re in court to ensure our patients can access the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion. No one should be forced to travel hundreds of miles to another state to access basic health care. We will do everything we can to support the patients we serve in Texas.”

This law is a full-scale assault on patients, their health care providers, and their support systems. If the law takes effect, abortion providers, health center staff, and abortion funds could be saddled with frivolous lawsuits to prevent them from providing essential health care services. The law will also incentivize anyone who disapproves of a patient’s decision – a relative, an abusive partner, or even a stranger – to sue the patient's doctor and try to obtain a court order vetoing that patient's choice. Simply put, SB 8 is an attempt to force all health centers that provide abortion care in Texas to close by subjecting them to endless lawsuits across the state that consume their time and resources.

The vast majority of people who obtain abortions in Texas are at least six weeks into pregnancy, meaning this law would prohibit nearly all abortions in the state. Many people do not realize they are pregnant until after six weeks. And, for many Texans — especially those in marginalized communities, like people of color, people with low incomes, undocumented people, and people living in rural areas — abortion is already a right in name only. Existing restrictions — such as a law that forces patients to receive in-person, biased counseling and then wait at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion; a ban on telemedicine for abortion; and prohibitions on nearly all insurance coverage for abortion — have already pushed this essential health care out of reach for many people in Texas. 

While six-week bans have been blocked in eight other states — and indeed no court outside of Texas has allowed a challenged ban based on gestational age to go into effect — SB 8 is specifically designed to be difficult to block before it takes effect. Similar bans in other states are all directly enforced by government officials, allowing plaintiffs to sue the state officials responsible for enforcing the law. Texas has instead created an enforcement scheme of private lawsuits brought by the general public, in an attempt to evade all legal accountability and prevent the federal courts from blocking this unconstitutional ban before it takes effect. 

Among other claims, the lawsuit filed today states that SB 8 blatantly violates Texans’ constitutional right to privacy and liberty as established by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago. The law also violates the constitutional rights of abortion providers and supporters, including their right to equal protection under the law, and their First Amendment rights to speech and access to the courts.

This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on behalf of the following plaintiffs:

 

  • Abortion providers: Whole Woman’s Health (which operates four clinics in Texas); Whole Woman’s Health Alliance; eleven Planned Parenthood health centers throughout the state; Southwestern Women’s Surgical Center; Austin Women’s Health Center; and Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services and Houston Women’s Reproductive Services

  • Doctors: Dr. Allison Gilbert and Dr. Bhavik Kumar, who provide abortion services

  • Clergy: Reverend Erika Forbes and Reverend Daniel Kanter, who provide emotional and spiritual counseling and support to patients considering abortion

  • Abortion funds and practical support networks: the Afiya Center, Frontera Fund, Fund Texas Choice (FTC), Jane’s Due Process, Lilith Fund, and the TEA Fund

  • Clinic staff: Marva Sadler, Senior Director of Clinical Services at Whole Woman’s Health

Plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, The Lawyering Project, and Morrison & Foerster LLP.

You can read the full complaint here.

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