Republicans in Texas are really escalating their assault on abortion access and finding new ways to go after people who don’t want to be pregnant. State Rep. Drew Spring (R) proposed a bill Thursday that would make it a felony for credit card companies to “process a transaction” for abortion pills sales. On top of that, the proposed law would allow any citizen to sue a credit card company for allowing that sale to happen.
If you’re confused as to how someone (“a person” as in the bill’s language, not law enforcement) would find out that someone else has used a credit card to purchase abortion pills in an illegal fashion (it’s not illegal right now), you’re comprehension is great! It is confusing and makes no tesense. But since the Supreme Court allowed the citizen civil lawsuits to go into effect with S.B. 8 (remember those $10,000 civil suits?), it seems like civil lawsuits among citizens is the trendy way to enforce laws these days.
This isn’t even the first bill this week in Texas that is trying to monitor abortion seekers. On Tuesday, state Rep. Steve Toth introduced a bill that says internet service providers “shall make every reasonable and technologically feasible effort to block Internet access to information or material intended to assist or facilitate efforts to obtain an elective abortion or an abortion-inducing drug.”
Among the sites that Toth wants blocked are telehealth sites that don’t send abortion pills to Texas as well as Plan C (which supplies information) and Aid Access (which will supply you with abortion pills).
This bill also uses the citizen civil lawsuit framework. The proposed language wants to criminalize abortion funds for helping people leave the state of Texas, even if the abortion is performed in a state where it’s legal. This is particularly egregious because on Feb. 24, a federal ruling issued by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman found that abortion funds can provide financial support to people seeking abortions outside of the state. “No extremist, anti-abortion politician should be able to prevent Texans from leaving the state to seek abortion care. All Texans deserve the right to control their reproductive lives and futures,” said the plantiffs. “Texans should be able to access abortion care in their own communities when they need it without delay, and we’re looking forward to supporting Texans who are forced to leave the state to access abortion.”
Conservatives have waged a similar war over the past few years against credit card companies who worked with sex workers (“worked” in the sense that sex workers used credit card companies and payment systems like Square, Stripe and Apple Pay to perform transactions with clients). The pressure campaign against Mastercard was effective: The company instituted new policies requiring pre-approval of all content before publication. Seems reasonable but in practice, it would be impossible. As the ACLU put it: “To take one example, a site like OnlyFans has one million content creators. If each of them uploaded one video in a given day, under Mastercard’s policy, OnlyFans would have to review each video before it’s published to determine whether it complies,” ACLU Trans Justice campaign manager LaLa B Holston-Zannell wrote in 2021.
The bigger point of all these bills is just to scare people by getting them caught up in the legal system. It’s about making people too afraid to seek out abortion care and making companies too afraid to help them. And the clip at which Texas, in particular, is coming up with new ways to do this is honestly terrifying.