New Texas law opens up abortion bounty hunting
July 9, 2021
An antiabortion law in Texas will soon allow any U.S. citizen to sue Texas-based abortion clinics, doctors, and anyone who aids in an abortion. If successful, the petitioner, who does not have to reside in Texas, will receive an $10,000 award and the cost for attorney’s fees. Pro-choice advocates worry that this cash prize may create a new cottage industry of aggressive antiabortion bounty hunters.
The provision, which passed the Texas state legislature this spring, is part of a larger antiabortion bill which will ban all abortions after a doctor detects a fetal heartbeat, usually around the six-week mark.
The law is set to take effect on Sept. 1, and lawyers for abortion clinics are unsure of how to rebuke it because the government isn’t the enforcing body. In the past, six-week bans in other states have all been eventually found unconstitutional as they’ve risen through the legal system.
This “legal hack” could be a way to get around that.
Typically, governmental agencies shut down or challenge abortion clinics accused of breaking the law, and the clinics then have a way to challenge the constitutionality of the state law through the courts. By deputizing Americans to sue on their own, clinics and doctors can no longer employ that method.
“Every citizen is now a private attorney general,” said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston.“You can have random people who are against abortion start suing tomorrow.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stood behind the provision, citing his religious beliefs.
“Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said ... The legislature “worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I’m about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”