Abortion-rights groups file federal lawsuit to block Texas law that would allow anyone to sue abortion providers after 6 weeks

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images
  • Pro-abortion groups filed a federal lawsuit to block a six-week abortion ban in Texas.
  • The law, set to take effect in September, would allow people to sue anyone helping someone get an abortion after six weeks.
  • The groups argue that the law violates “constitutional right to privacy and liberty.”
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Several abortion-rights groups and providers filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday to block a Texas law that would allow people to sue abortion clinics, doctors, and anyone else helping someone get an abortion in the state after six weeks.

The law, signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May and set to take effect in September, invites private citizens, even those outside of Texas, to help enforce the state’s six-week abortion ban, awarding them with at least $10,000 per each successful court challenge.

The law will “incentivize anyone who disapproves of a patient’s abortion – a relative, an abusive partner, or even a stranger – to sue the provider and obtain a court order stopping the abortion,” the group of plaintiffs, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with several abortion providers, said in a press release.

The groups argue that the law violates “constitutional right to privacy and liberty as established by Roe v. Wade,” the landmark Supreme Court decision that granted the right to abortion almost 50 years ago.

The Texas law, known as SB 8, is one of a slew of restrictive “heartbeat” abortion bans recently enacted by Republican governors. The law seeks to prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs at the six-week mark, a time when some people don’t know they are pregnant.

But the Texas law is unique from the others in that it authorizes individuals, and not state government officials, to enforce the ban.

“This new law would open the floodgates to frivolous lawsuits designed to bankrupt health centers, harass providers, and isolate patients from anyone who would treat them with compassion as they seek out health care,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “The cruelty is the point – and we will not let it stand.”

Anti-abortion group Texas Right To Life reacted to the lawsuit on Tuesday, saying in a statement that: “We still have the utmost confidence in the innovative legal strategy and carefully drafted nature of SB 8.”

“We fully believe this Pro-Life Priority will ultimately be upheld and save countless preborn lives,” the group’s legislative director John Seago said.

The challenge comes as the Supreme Court is due to consider a major abortion case that could upend landmark decisions such as Roe v. Wade. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerns a Mississippi law that would ban nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.