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Wendy Davis Files Lawsuit Against Texas’s ‘Heartbeat Bill’

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Wendy Davis | Image by Al Teich

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Former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, known best for her 13-hour filibuster against a 2013 anti-abortion bill, has filed a lawsuit against Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), the State of Texas’ new anti-abortion law. The suit says SB8 is “blatantly unconstitutional” and “written to make a mockery of the federal courts.”

SB 8 allows individuals to file civil lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” in abortion after fetal heart activity is detected. Abortion clinics have stopped performing the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy due to the law, which took effect in September 2021.

The bill has prompted a surge in funds from nonprofits that provide financial assistance to pregnant women seeking an abortion outside the state. Anti-abortion advocates have used social media and legal filings to claim that the employees and volunteers of the non-profits could face lawsuits and felony prosecution due to their financial support.

The Thomas More Society is one anti-abortion advocacy group that has tweeted at different abortion funds, claiming their donors could face lawsuits.

SB 8 specifies that paying for an unlawful abortion constitutes “aiding and abetting,” and someone can be sued “regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation” of the law.

According to the lawsuit, Davis, who was the Democratic nominee for Texas governor in 2014 and unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2020, donates to and works with the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, an Austin-based abortion fund.

Her lawsuit argues that these threats against contributors and volunteer groups “have had a chilling effect” and stopped her from associating with “like-minded people to express her views and achieve her advocacy goals.”

“We are asking the courts today to stop the unconstitutional harassment of abortion funds by confirming SB 8 cannot be used to silence donors with bogus threats,” Davis said. “More than that, we are asking the courts to stop the nightmare SB 8 has created for Texans if they need abortion services.”

Davis is joined in the suit by Sean Mehl and Marva Sadler, who both work for Whole Women’s Health and sit on the board of the Stigma Relief Fund for abortions.

“Until the Court clarifies whether and to what extent [they] can face liability for doing so,” Sadler and Mehl claim in the lawsuit that they have halted donating to abortion programs.

State Representative Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) and three individuals who have brought lawsuits against abortion funds are the defendants in the case. Cain recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to abortion funds in Texas, ordering them to “immediately stop paying for abortions performed in Texas or face criminal prosecution.”

“Whoever furnishes the means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended is guilty as an accomplice,” he said.

Cain reiterated his assertions from the cease-and-desist letter in a written response to Davis’ lawsuit on Tuesday. He also said he intends to introduce legislation next year to permit district attorneys to prosecute abortion-related crimes beyond their jurisdictions.

“The law of Texas is clear—it is a crime to pay for another person’s abortion, punishable by 2 to 5 years imprisonment. Texas abortion funds and their donors are committing criminal acts by paying for abortions in Texas,” tweeted Cain.

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