Texas is about to ban abortion, and while they’re at it, they are emboldening rapists to sue their victim’s abortion providers and family members.
SB 8, known as HB 1515 in the House, would ban abortion as early as 6-weeks gestation. Most abortions can’t even happen at 6-weeks because of the time it takes a person to become aware of a potential pregnancy, confirm the pregnancy, consider their options, talk to their loved ones, schedule the medical procedure, and on top of all that, comply with the numerous existing restrictions on abortion in Texas. Essentially, this is a total ban on abortion in Texas because it bans abortion before the vast majority of Texans even know that they are pregnant.
But extremists trying to ban abortion in Texas is nothing new. What is new, however, is the entire Texas GOP being willing to sacrifice their own credibility and that of our civil court system to appease the anti-abortion lobby. This bill would allow any person, Texan or not, to enforce it, along with almost all the other restrictions on abortion that Texas has put into effect during the past quarter century, by abusing our civil court system and opening the door for harassing lawsuits.
By allowing anyone to sue, SB 8/HB 1515 attempts to override the Texas Constitution’s requirement that a plaintiff must have an actual injury or have suffered actual damages to have legal standing. That opens the door for an infinite number of ridiculous, frivolous civil lawsuits. It means that a nosey neighbor could sue a mother for giving her daughter a ride to get an abortion; or a classmate could be sued for giving a friend $20, even if they didn’t know it would be used to obtain an abortion.
The scenarios are limitless. The bill is written so broadly that it would even allow rapists to sue their victim’s doctors, rape counselors, and family members. Additionally, this bill bars the collection of attorney fees that could usually be sought after defending a groundless lawsuit. So under this law, well-funded national anti-abortion groups could target and sue abortion providers, funds and their donors over and over again, forcing them to shut down.
This isn’t the only extreme bill that Republicans are suddenly willing to advance. Only two sessions ago, an amendment that would have removed the “compassionate exception” for abortion after 20 weeks was rejected by the majority Republican house. The compassionate exception allows for an abortion in the case of a nonviable pregnancy, so that the person is not cruelly forced to carry that pregnancy until they miscarry or have a stillbirth. Republican Cindy Burkett publicly called removing the exception “a step too far” in 2017.
The House had this same debate in 2015, when Republican J.D. Sheffield asked, “Why should the heavy, blunt hand of government come into that most heart-rending decision?” This session, however, two bills that remove the compassionate exception, HB 3218 and 3760, have been passed in the Senate and the House Public Health Committee, and will be on the House floor for debate very soon.
These bills have flown through the Senate and have already been voted out of their House Committee, despite being way out of line with mainstream views. Most Texans–56% from across the political spectrum–want abortion to be legal and think it is regulated enough. Texas already has some of the most restrictive laws on abortion access in the nation, and accessing an abortion under these new proposed restrictions would be impossible.
The truth is that abortion is a critical component not only of healthcare, but of Texans’ ability to lead free and fulfilling lives. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all know and love someone who has had an abortion. Anti-abortion policies are about telling people how they can and can’t live their lives, perpetuating shame, and limiting Texans’ futures. If you do not want to carry a pregnancy to term, the Texas Legislature shouldn’t be able to force you to. It’s really that simple.
This Legislative session has served as a reminder that we cannot rely on current state leadership to help us. It’s up to us to share our stories, organize, and stop harmful legislation from advancing. When we fight for unrestricted abortion access, we are fighting for our families, our communities, our futures, and our freedom. We urge our state leaders to stop the political assault on abortion access, and instead focus on getting much needed healthcare to Texans, reforming the electric grid, and providing our neighborhood schools with the billions in Federal dollars they will need to ensure that every child can get back on track after a year of missed opportunities.
Caroline Duble is the political director of Avow, a Texas organization that unapologetically advocates for unrestricted abortion access.