Court Battles

Abortion advocates call on judge to declare Texas law unconstitutional

Abortion advocates on Wednesday pressed a state district judge to declare Texas’s controversial abortion ban unconstitutional, contending that the provision allowing private citizens to sue individuals who violate the law creates a number of legal problems.

An attorney representing pro-abortion groups said her clients have been forced to change the way they act because of the financial burden the new law has hoisted on them.

“Our clients’ interest is being affected right now, they are having to change their behavior because SB8 unconstitutionally exposes them to financial ruin,” Elizabeth Myers said, according to The Dallas Morning News.

She also suggested that the law gives private citizens an immense amount of power. 

“For a private cause of action, which is what defendants keep saying this is, you need an injury,” she said. “There is no harm required here.”

“Anybody can just file a lawsuit, prove an abortion happened and get $10,000 or more and fees,” she added.

A coalition of pro-abortion individuals and abortion rights groups, including Planned Parenthood, is suing the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life in an effort to stop the group from suing individuals under the new law, which bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. At that point, women often do not know that they are carrying a child.

The law allows private citizens to take legal action against anyone who is believed to be violating the abortion restrictions, and provides awards of at least $10,000 for successful lawsuits.

Fourteen lawsuits were filed against Texas Right to Life between August and September, which were eventually integrated into one case. The group created an online reporting system in which individuals could submit anonymous tips about people who violated the new law, according to the Dallas newspaper.

Lawyers for Texas Right to Life, however, reportedly argued on Wednesday that the group should not be the target of the litigation because it has not committed any wrongdoing.

Attorney Heather Hacker argued that even if the court sided with the plaintiffs and granted a permanent injunction against the group, other individuals could still file legal action against other entities.

She also said that John Seago, the legislative director of Texas Right to Life, is “just a man who happens to be pro-life,” but is being forced to justify the Texas law because “the plaintiffs sued him rather than somebody else who’s responsible for that.”

David Peeples, a retired magistrate judge who is overseeing the case, appeared to recognize the possibility that the precedent set through the law could be applied to circumstances beyond abortion, according to the Morning News.

“The potential of a set of procedural weapons that might be used in other contexts,” Peeples said. “That’s got to be on people’s minds.”

He said he will have a ruling on the matter soon, though any verdict is likely to be appealed.

The Texas abortion bill sent shock waves throughout the country when it was enacted in September, prompting a number of challenges, two of which have made it to the Supreme Court.

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