A judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life, a conservative anti-abortion group, preventing it from suing Planned Parenthood abortion providers under a newly implemented restrictive abortion law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
With the new law, SB 8, which went into effect this past week, private citizens can sue anyone who provides or “aids or abets” an abortion past six weeks gestation, which is before many even know they are pregnant. But Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble wrote in a ruling that the law “creates a probable, irreparable, and imminent injury” to Planned Parenthood providers, staff and patients who have “no adequate remedy” while they pursue further legal action against SB 8. The restraining order is in effect until September 17, although it does not prevent others not associated with Texas Right to Life from suing them, nor does it allow them not to comply with the law.
Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas as well as doctors, clergy and other clinic owners have filed suit to block the law, which offers a $10,000 bounty to private citizens who sue another person who helps in any way with an abortion after six weeks. That can include a rideshare driver who brought a person to a clinic or anyone who helped pay for an abortion. If the suit is decided in favor of the plaintiff, defendants can be ordered to pay $10,000 in addition to the plaintiff’s legal fees. This has led two rideshare companies, Lyft and Uber, to announce they will cover legal fees their drivers may incur as a result of SB 8.
In a filing, the pro-choice plaintiffs argue that the law “flagrantly violates the constitutional rights of Texans seeking abortion and upends the rule of law in service of an anti-abortion agenda.”
Although Helene Krasnoff, vice president for public policy litigation and law at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that advocates were “relieved” at their small victory, she added that the restraining order was “not enough relief for Texas.”
“This restraining order offers protection to the brave health care providers and staff at Planned Parenthood health centers throughout Texas, who have continued to offer care as best they can within the law while facing surveillance, harassment, and threats from vigilantes eager to stop them,” said Krasnoff. “But make no mistake: this is not enough relief for Texas.”
Planned Parenthood, she said, would “continue fighting” and “doing everything we can under the law to restore Texans’ federal constitutional right to access abortion.”
Elizabeth Graham, Texas Right to Life vice president, said in a statement that they expect the suit to be dismissed. “Until then, we will continue our diligent efforts to ensure the abortion industry fully follows the life-saving provisions of the Texas Heartbeat Act.”
But Texas Right to Life hit another hurdle this week as its online form to submit tips to help enforce the new restrictive law was inundated with fake reports — thanks largely to users of TikTok and Reddit — and booted by internet hosting site GoDaddy.