Apr 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Former Texas lawmaker challenges state's six-week abortion ban

Picture of Wendy Davis

Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis. Photo: Stewart F. House/Getty Images

Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis has filed a lawsuit against the state's six-week abortion ban, which has been in effect since September of last year.

Driving the news: The lawsuit, filed by Davis and other abortion rights advocates, contends Senate Bill 8 is "blatantly unconstitutional," adding that the law makes "a mockery of the federal courts" that have not blocked its enforcement.

  • The ban encourages private citizens to sue anyone suspected of helping a person receive an abortion for a reward of at least $10,000.

Details: "S.B. 8 prohibits government officials from directly enforcing its provisions. Instead, it deputizes private citizens to enforce the statute, allowing 'any person' other than a government official to bring a civil lawsuit against anyone who provides an abortion in violation of the statute, 'aids or abets' such an abortion, or intends to do so," the lawsuit says.

  • As a result, Davis is specifically suing a Texas state representative and three private citizens, all of whom have either pledged to bring lawsuits against abortion funds to enforce the law or are in the process of doing so.

Davis mentions that since S.B. 8 took effect, abortions in the state have "dramatically" decreased. Additionally, since Texans are flocking to other states to access abortion care, this has resulted in "cascading delays in abortion access across the country."

  • The number of clinic abortions performed in Texas dropped by 60% in the first month after the ban was enacted.
  • Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas' surrounding states saw a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients from Texas.

Be smart: The Texas Supreme Court ruled in March that since the law is enforced by private citizens, abortion providers could not sue Texas state medical licensing officials over it because the officials did not "directly or indirectly" have the authority to enforce it.

The big picture: The legal challenge comes as state lawmakers across the U.S. move to pass and enact laws to restrict or ban abortion, while the Supreme Court evaluates a case that could result in the end of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that established abortion rights in the U.S.

Zoom in: In Oklahoma, state lawmakers are considering a law modeled after the Texas ban that would effectively prohibit all abortions unless necessary to save a pregnant person's life.

  • If the law passes both chambers of the state legislature and is signed into law, it would surpass Texas' ban as the most restrictive abortion measure in the country.

Go deeper: Red states race to enact new abortion restrictions

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