Texas Sued Over Abortion Ban
The state of Texas passed a law on September 1st, 2021, banning abortions once a heartbeat is detectable (about 6 weeks after conception). The law makes no exceptions for cases involving incest or rape. This law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone else who aides a woman who is trying to obtain an abortion, which includes those who provide financial resources for a woman trying to terminate her pregnancy, or giving a woman a ride to a clinic. Private citizens who want to sue don't need to show any connection to those they are suing. Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, has set up what they call a "whistleblower" website, where people can input anonymous tips about anyone they believe to be violating this abortion law.
Uber and Lyft have offered financial assistance to their employees affected by this law, by paying legal fees, since their drivers could be sued for driving a woman to a clinic. “We do not appreciate how this law pits citizens against citizens, and we do not appreciate how this law limits a woman’s right to choose,” Lyft CEO John Zimmer said to NPR. “You know, if you imagine being a driver and not knowing if you’re breaking the law or giving someone a ride. Imagine if you’re a woman in need of a health care appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you. Both of these situations are completely unacceptable.” Uber responded to a tweet by Lyft co-founder and CEO Logan Green, where he announced Lyft’s plan to cover these legal fees. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responded, “Right on @logangreen- drivers shouldn't be put at risk for getting people where they want to go. Team @Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push.” Lyft has also announced a $1 million donation to Planned Parenthood.
The Supreme Court allowed Texas to pass that law, and decided not to act on an emergency petition brought by Texas abortion clinics. The groups challenging Texas' law, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, had put their faith in the federal district court, where they were seeking an order to temporarily block the finalizing of this law. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals intervened to cancel a planned hearing there, so the groups filed an emergency petition to the Supreme Court on September 30th, arguing that the Texas law is unconstitutional.
The Justice Department announced their suit against the state of Texas on September 9th. The Biden administration’s lawsuit argues that “the Texas law violates the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, saying the measure deprives women in Texas of the right to an abortion and imposes an ‘undue burden’ — and that the Constitution generally takes precedence over state laws.” The lawsuit also discusses the interference of federal constitutional responsibility to those in federal care or custody in the state of Texas, including in prisons.