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Lawsuit Filed to Thwart Texas Abortion Ban

August 23, 2021 by Reece Nations
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a meeting at the state Capitol. (James Gregg/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

DALLAS — A Texas attorney filed a lawsuit and a request for a temporary restraining order on Monday to block the enforcement of new abortion restrictions passed by the Texas legislature during its regular session earlier this year.

The restrictions implemented by the passage of SB 8, also known as the “Texas Heartbeat Bill,” were originally set to take effect on Sept. 1. The suit filed by attorney and women’s rights advocate Michelle Simpson Tuegel contends that the law’s provisions would violate attorney-client privilege.

“This bill is yet another desperate attempt by the state of Texas to undermine a woman’s right to choose — this time by dismantling her legal support system,” Tuegel said in a written statement. “It unlawfully attempts to block attorneys’ communications with their female clients, especially at times when the clients need them the most.”

Teugal’s lawsuit pertains specifically to the provision of the law that prohibits individuals from “[engaging] in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion” and creates a civil liability of as much as $10,000 for anyone who provides assistance to women seeking an abortion. 

In the suit, Teugal argues it is the role of attorneys to “give candid, truthful advice, free of coercion and in the best interest of [their] client,” and the bill’s enactment creates a framework that pits attorneys against their own clients. In July, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Texas on behalf of Texas abortion providers on the grounds that the abortion law violates constitutional rights established by the Supreme Court under Roe v. Wade, TWN previously reported.

“Don’t let the different packaging fool you,” Tuegal said in a written statement. “This bill violates the rights of women to seek lawful medical care, as well as the rights of those who protect them to do their jobs. By filing this lawsuit, I intend to send the message to women in Texas who need help now and in the future that they still have advocates who are committed to protecting their health and welfare. Though SB8 intends to silence me and other attorneys like me, I will continue to provide legal advice to women who contact me, even if the law goes into effect on Sept. 1.”

Texas’ recent abortion law stipulates that no abortion can be provided after six weeks of pregnancy, a span in which the ACLU contends that many women are not yet aware of their pregnancy. Further, the law contains no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Additionally, TWN previously reported the law was enacted with the unprecedented provision that permits private individuals — not the state’s attorney general — to file lawsuits seeking the ban’s “enforcement.” Because as many as 90% of people who obtain abortions in Texas are at least six weeks into their pregnancy, opponents of the law say it is tantamount to an outright abortion ban.

“Texas has long led the country in passing extremist laws intended to chip away at Texans’ right to safe, accessible abortion care — from imposing long waiting periods, to forcing people to undergo an unnecessary ultrasound, to requiring people to listen to false information about abortions under the guise of ‘health consultations,’” Adriana Piñon, policy counsel and senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said in a written statement. 

“Now the state is trying to prevent people from getting abortions, full stop. And it allows anti-abortion zealots to threaten people with lawsuits for simply trying to help a friend or relative who needs abortion care. We won’t accept these unlawful and extremist tactics, and will continue fighting for Texans’ fundamental right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives.” 

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