State Senator Bryan Hughes, the main author of the Texas law, said his model law, known as SB 8, was a local ordinance passed in Waskom, Texas in 2019 that allowed residents to prosecute anyone who has performed an abortion in the city or helped someone achieve one. Unlike SB 8, however, the Waskom Act was largely symbolic, given that the city did not have clinics that actually performed abortions.
What legal questions does private enforcement raise?
The Justice Department sued Texas on Thursday, arguing that SB 8 was passed “in open disregard of the Constitution” and Supreme Court cases like Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Roe v. Wade. But the ministry’s 27-page complaint raised a particular issue with the law’s use of what it called “bounty hunters,” saying giving them the power to enforce the law was an “unprecedented plan. to isolate the State from all responsibility ”.
Further, officials said, SB 8 had essentially frozen the practice of abortion in Texas and achieved its goal of stopping proceedings without a single private lawsuit having been brought. After all, the complaint pointed out, the mere threat of litigation was enough “to make the operation of an abortion clinic too risky” in Texas.
The department’s legal record rests on the argument that ordinary people, if and when they sue abortion providers, will in fact be acting as agents for the state of Texas. What the government is asking for in its lawsuit amounts to a federal injunction prohibiting anyone statewide from filing a lawsuit against abortion providers, which some lawyers say could be a bit far-fetched. Then again, it’s perhaps no more far-fetched than SB 8 itself, which allowed everyone across the state to file a complaint.
Understanding the Texas Abortion Law
Ultimately, lawyers said, SB 8 is also likely to be challenged in another way. At some point, an abortion provider or someone else involved in the process – say, a group that funds abortions – could step forward and willfully break the law as a calculated test case. But it could take time and have uncertain results.
“Whatever happens, it’s going to take a while,” Ms. Ziegler said. “And until then, this law will be the status quo.”
Do other states pass similar laws?
In recent days, lawmakers and leaders in at least seven states have said they are considering similar laws. Last week, South Dakota Governor Kristi L. Noem, a Republican, said she asked lawyers in her office to review SB 8 “to make sure we have the most pro-life laws. strict in the books “. Around the same time, Wilton Simpson, the Republican leader of the Florida state Senate, said members of his chamber were already working on a statute similar to Texas.