A federal lawsuit has been filed by a former senator against Texas' near-total abortion ban.
Former state Sen. Wendy Davis is challenging the Texas Heartbeat Act, the near-total ban on abortion in the Lone Star State. It is the latest in the attempts to overturn the Texas law, many of which have failed and caused complicated legal battles in federal and state courtrooms since the measure took effect on September 1. The controversial measure prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is at about six weeks, before most women are aware of the pregnancy.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Davis is a Democrat for Fort Worth who is recognized for her 13-hour filibuster of a 2013 abortion bill. The former Texas state senator filed the lawsuit alongside Stigma Relief Fund, an abortion fund associated with Whole Women's Health, and two of its employees and Stigma Relief board members, Marva Sadler and Sean Mehl.
The former Texas state senator's lawsuit targeted state Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Republican from Deer Park and three private citizens who attempted to sue different abortion funds. Rep. Cain sent cease-and-desist letters to various abortion funds in Texas in March, warning the staff of each nonprofit organization that financing an illegal abortion may result in legal action against them. Abortion funds are often nonprofit organizations that offer financial assistance and other types of support for women who are seeking abortions.
"We are asking the courts today to stop the unconstitutional harassment of abortion funds by confirming [Senate Bill 8 or the Texas Heartbeat Act] cannot be used to silence donors with bogus threats," Davis said in a statement, as reported by the Dallas Morning News. "More than that, we are asking the courts to stop the nightmare (SB 8) has created for Texans if they need abortion services."
Instead of allowing the government from enforcing the abortion law, the Texas Heartbeat Act or SB 8 empowers private citizens to file a lawsuit against abortion providers or anyone who aids and abets an illegal abortion. Those who are found guilty of violating the law can be awarded $10,000.
Previous efforts to overturn the law had been in vain. The Texas Supreme Court in March struck down the biggest challenge brought forth by abortion providers to date. Judges ruled that state licensing officials are not the ones tasked to enforce the law, so they cannot be sued.
But Davis' lawsuit that was filed in Austin on Tuesday argues that SB 8 seeks "to make a mockery of the federal courts" by allowing this type of enforcement mechanism. The question at the center of the lawsuit is whether Texas can adopt a law that does something that is not allowed by the Constitution. Two landmarl U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established that an individual has a constitutional right to abortion.
"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 donors, employees and volunteers to fully serve Texas abortion patients," Davis' lawsuit argued.