As part of an unprecedented wave of recent GOP attacks on reproductive rights across the United States, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign a bill to not only outlaw ending a pregnancy as early as six weeks, but also allow anti-choice “vigilantes” to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion that violates state law.
Texas’ Republican-controlled state Legislature on Thursday gave final approval to Senate Bill 8, which Abbott celebrated on Twitter. It is yet another so-called “fetal heartbeat” measure, which medical experts say is a scientifically misleading phrase. If signed into law, it would ban abortions before many people know they are pregnant.
“Republicans in the Texas Legislature have pushed extreme bills to ban abortion and incentivize people to sue healthcare providers and anyone else who assists a pregnant person seeking abortion care.”
—Ilyse Hogue, NARAL
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), noted in a statement that “this bill essentially opens the floodgates to allow anyone who is hostile to abortion to sue doctors and clinics, consuming their resources and forcing them to shut down.”
Specifically, the bill would enable “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity,” to file a civil lawsuit against anyone who performs an abortion that is illegal in Texas or “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… regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion” violates state law.
Currently, abortions are illegal in Texas after 20 weeks, with exceptions when a patient’s life is in danger or severe fetal abnormalities have been detected. Though the pending law wouldn’t punish patients who get abortions, anyone successfully sued under it could be forced to pay a minimum of $10,000 in “statutory damages.”
“It’s unprecedented, there’s no question,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in the state, told The Daily Beast. “The idea that just anybody should be able to police a highly trained physician and their staff—that any Joe on the street can make that claim—is just totally shocking.”
Reproductive rights advocates in Texas and nationwide also pointed out that the state bill is just the latest extreme measure proposed or enacted this year with the aim of giving the right-wing majority U.S. Supreme Court the opportunity to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion.
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