On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a terrifying anti-abortion bill that not only seeks to ban almost all abortions, but also includes a provision that would allow someone who, in the words of the bill, “aided and abetted” an abortion seeker to be sued. By empowering private citizens to enforce cruel abortion bans that the state cannot, Texas Republicans have not only found a way to circumvent the Constitution, they have essentially given anti-abortion activists a green light to harass clinics, abortion funds, abortion advocates, and even friends and family members of abortion seekers.
Like other bans on early abortion passed in Republican-led states, the unconstitutional ban will likely be challenged in the courts and blocked, but it’s the latter provision that has most worried abortion providers and abortion advocates. They expect they will likely be the target of lawsuits by anti-abortion activists seeking to make them close their doors. As the Guttmacher Institute’s Elizabeth Nash put it in a statement on the bill’s private enforcement mechanism, “By allowing anyone, anywhere to sue people involved in providing or obtaining an abortion, this ban would open the floodgates for lawsuits, bury clinics under frivolous court cases and legal fees, and make it difficult for providers to remain open.”
And while the ban on early abortion can and will almost assuredly be sued, the state’s abortion providers and advocates will have to, as constitutional law professor Josh Blackman told the Texas Tribune, “sit and wait to be sued” in order to challenge the private enforcement mechanism. As Blackman put it, organizations like Planned Parenthood “can’t go to court and sue Attorney General [Ken] Paxton like they usually would because he has no role in enforcing the statute.”
That Abbott’s signing comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s announcement that it will take up an abortion case that is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade is yet another sign that the ever-more radical and emboldened anti-abortion movement is winning, and that activists have become more honest about their end goal.
And get ready for these kinds of bills to be introduced in your state. As Kamyon Conner, the executive director of the TEA Fund, a Texas abortion fund, told Jezebel in a previous interview, “If it happens here, it will happen in other places, because Texas is a place to watch when it comes to abortion access and abortion restrictions.”
If there’s ever been a good time to donate to your local abortion fund, it’s now.