Former Texas state Senator Wendy Davis has filed a federal lawsuit against the Texas abortion law, which bans abortion at six weeks, arguing that it is “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“S.B. 8 seeks not only to strip Texans of their fundamental right to make decisions about their pregnancies, based on their individual circumstances and religious beliefs, but also to make a mockery of the federal courts,” according to the court filing made by Davis.
“Plaintiffs urgently need this Court to stop Texas’s brazen defiance of the rule of law, uphold the federal constitutional rights of pregnant Texans, and restore the ability of abortion funds and their associates to fully serve Texas abortion patients.”
The Texas Heartbeat Act or Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) came into effect on Sept. 1, and bans abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which occurs around six weeks after conception.
The law is applicable even in the case of pregnancies as a result of rape or incest. An exemption is provided if there are medical emergencies. The Supreme Court had denied an effort to block the law in a 5–4 ruling.
State officials have no role in enforcing the law. Instead, citizens have the power to file lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion. The Texas high court ruled on March 11 that state medical licensing officials have no authority to enforce SB 8.
Since the law allows private citizens to sue abortion service providers, it “incentivizes vigilante harassment” of those who provide such assistance, the court filing argued. It has also “dramatically reduced” abortion access in the state.
Davis is joined in the lawsuit by Stigma Relief Fund, an abortion fund with ties to Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider. Marva Sadler and Sean Mehl, who serve on the board of Stigma, have stopped donating to abortion funds until such time the court makes clear the liability they might face for making such contributions.
The Texas Heartbeat Act was signed into law in May last year. During the signing ceremony, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.”
Abortions in Texas had dropped significantly in the month after the law came into effect. There were 5.404 abortions in August 2021 according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. This fell to 2,197 in September. Only two of these abortions in the month were performed on women who were pregnant for nine weeks or more.