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Private Companies Join Action Against Texas Abortion Ban

September 8, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
A security guard opens the door to the Whole Women's Health Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s pledge on Monday to assist opponents of the new Texas ban on abortion is winning more and more supporters among some of the nation’s big name private corporations.

The state law enacted in May empowers private citizens to sue anyone seeking an abortion whose pregnancy is more than six weeks advanced and to collect $10,000 for their effort. It also allows lawsuits against health care providers or anyone else who helps the pregnant women with abortions.

Some companies announced in recent days they will pay the legal fees of their employees or contractors in Texas who seek abortions. Others are making donations to abortion rights activists or advocating their cause.

They include rideshare companies Uber and Lyft, web hosting company GoDaddy, dating site Bumble and others.

In Texas, the controversial legislation is called the Heartbeat Bill, S.B. 8.

“TX SB8 threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go — especially women exercising their right to choose,” Lyft Chief Executive Officer Logan Green posted on Twitter. “@Lyft has created a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100% of legal fees for drivers sued under SB8 while driving on our platform. This is an attack on women’s access to health care and on their right to choose.”

Green said Lyft would donate $1 million to abortion rights organization Planned Parenthood while inviting other companies to take similar action.

About the same time, Bumble Chief Executive Officer Shar Dubey posted an announcement of the company’s plan to oppose the Texas law.

“Starting today, Bumble has created a relief fund supporting the reproductive rights of women and people across the gender spectrum who seek abortions in Texas,” Dubey wrote in her Twitter message. “Bumble is women-founded and women-led, and from day one we’ve stood up for the most vulnerable. We’ll keep fighting against regressive laws like #SB8.”

The companies announced their private initiatives less than two days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block Texas’ abortion ban by a slim 5-to-4 majority.

The court was responding to an emergency request from abortion providers led by Whole Woman’s Health to stop Texas from implementing S.B. 8. They argued the state law violates the Fourth Amendment privacy provisions that formed the basis of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

The court’s majority decision said Whole Woman’s Health failed to prove they were “likely to succeed on the merits” in their lawsuit that challenges the law.

The plaintiffs might have succeeded if the abortion ban was being enforced by state officials, in which case it would be an overreach of government authority, the Court said.

However, the Texas law skirted government action. Instead, it empowers private citizens to sue to enforce it.

Texas’ novel approach to an abortion ban left even the Supreme Court’s majority guessing about the constitutionality of how the law is enforced.

“It is unclear whether the named defendants in this lawsuit can or will seek to enforce the Texas law against the applicants in a manner that might permit our intervention,” the court’s unsigned decision said.

If the Supreme Court seemed uncertain, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland left no doubt that he opposed the state law.

Garland said the Justice Department was “urgently” considering options against the abortion ban.

“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack,” the statement said.

In addition, President Joe Biden said, “My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right.”

In another example of corporate opposition to the law, GoDaddy took down a website that could be used to post tips about persons seeking or assisting in abortions in Texas. The tips could lead to lawsuits against the pregnant women under authority of the Heartbeat Bill.

The website was operated by Texas Right to Life, an organization that claims it was exercising its First Amendment right to free speech.

GoDaddy officials said in a tweet Friday that it “informed the website owner yesterday that they have violated GoDaddy’s terms of service and have 24 hours to move to a different provider.”

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