Abortion rights supporters filed a new federal lawsuit on Tuesday in the latest attempt to block enforcement of Texas’ six-week abortion ban, which has dramatically reduced access to the procedure in the second largest state in the country.
Critics of the Texas law suffered a huge loss in December, when the US Supreme Court allowed the new law – drafted with the intention of making it nearly impossible to challenge – to remain in effect.
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In Tuesday’s lawsuit, an abortion fund that helps Texas residents pay for the cost of abortion care and three donors, including former Democratic state senator Wendy Davis, are seeking to sue individuals who have pledged to try to enforce the controversial law against the funds, their donors, employees and volunteers.
In court papers, they call the law “grossly unconstitutional” and say it “promotes vigilante harassment of anyone who assists patients with abortions.”
By law, state officials are generally not authorized to enforce the law. Instead, individuals from anywhere in the country can sue someone they think could help a woman get the procedure. They can also collect damages over $10,000. The threat of such lawsuits discouraged doctors from performing abortions after six weeks. Since the ruling, other states have decided to pass similar laws.
The lawsuit comes as states hostile to abortion rights move aggressively to enact tougher restrictions. Additionally, the Supreme Court is currently considering a Mississippi request to overturn Roe v. Wade in the most important abortion-related case the judges have heard in nearly 30 years.
If Roe were overthrown or fundamentally weakened, 21 states already have laws or constitutional amendments in place to try to ban abortion as quickly as possible, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which promotes abortion rights. Five other states are likely to ban abortion as soon as possible without federal protections. Since this month, 536 abortion restrictions have been introduced in 42 states.
The abortion fund behind the lawsuit is called the Stigma Relief Fund. She is represented in court by Stephanie Toti of The Lawyering Project. In court documents, Toti asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional and “unenforceable.”
In court papers, Toti says the law had an “immediate and devastating impact” on all Texans, “felt hardest by marginalized communities served by abortion funds.”
The fund is suing Texas resident Mistie Sharp, who swore in court that she intended to sue the abortion funds, as well as Sadie Weldon and Ashley Maxwell “because they took aggressive steps to sue certain Texas Abortion Fund and their donors, employees and volunteers.”
Even if the fund prevails in the lawsuit, it may not prevent others from trying to enforce the law.