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Citizens, not the state, will enforce new abortion laws in Texas

“If the Starbucks barista overhears you talking about your abortion and it was performed after six weeks, that barista is authorized to sue the clinic where you had the abortion and sue any other person who helped you, such as Uber. the driver who took you there, ”said Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University.

Some statutes allow private citizens to sue to enforce a law even if they are not harmed themselves, such as California’s Consumer Protection Act, which gives anyone in the state the right to sue a company for providing false information or involvement in other unfair business practices. , said Howard M. Wasserman, a professor of law at Florida International University in Miami. What is different about Texas law, he said, is that private enforcement does not support state enforcement; it is instead that a switch, as he said, was not good for democracy.

In addition, a Supreme Court ruling last month involving a credit reporting company rejected the concept of people suing as they were not specifically harmed. The case involved lawsuits in federal court, but Professor Wasserman said attorneys for the clinics would likely use it in their arguments in Texas.

The most common place for clinics to challenge abortion restrictions in Texas has been federal courts, where they have won more often than at the state level. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, the largest anti-abortion organization in the state, said some people in the anti-abortion movement thought “this did not work in federal court, so let’s try another route.”

Lawyers for the clinics argue that a six-week abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional, and Texas law is designed to isolate the state from a challenge. Federal protection currently extends to pregnancies up to the point where a fetus can sustain life outside the womb, approximately 23 or 24 weeks, and six weeks is often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Given that federal courts have experience in determining constitutional rights, attorneys for clinics say it makes sense to go there for help. The new law, if it comes into force, will make it much harder.

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