Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

DMN Stories

Court backs Planned Parenthood bid to block it from some lawsuits under the new Texas abortion law

Pro-abortion rights groups attain another small, temporary victory by preventing the state’s most organized likely litigator from filing legal action under new abortion restrictions.

By Morgan O’Hanlon

Pro-abortion rights groups
FILE – In this March 30, 2021 file photo, anti-abortion rights demonstrators gather in the rotunda at the Capitol while the Senate debated anti-abortion bills in Austin, Texas. The nation’s highest court has allowed a Texas law banning most abortions to remain in effect, marking a turning point for abortion opponents who have been fighting to implement stronger restrictions for nearly a decade. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)(Jay Janner)

AUSTIN — A Travis County District Judge issued a ruling Monday extending Planned Parenthood’s protection from anticipated legal action to be filed by some abortion opponents under the state’s new abortion law.

Travis County District Court Judge Karin Crump, who oversaw the hearing, found that the new restrictions create the threat of imminent harm for Planned Parenthood plaintiffs and violates the Texas Constitution.

A temporary restraining order preventing the women’s health clinic and known abortion provider from being sued under the new abortion law was granted earlier this month. The order signed by Crump on Monday extends that protection until a trial that she set for April 4, 2022.

The extended injunctive relief is narrow in scope, protecting only three Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates and one of its abortion providers from being sued by named defendants in the lawsuit. It would not prevent Planned Parenthood from being sued by another person who is not working with anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The lawsuit is similar in design to others filed in the last few weeks on behalf of several groups that support reproductive rights. A hearing for injunctive relief in those cases is set for Oct. 4.

Jennifer Sandman, senior director of public policy litigation and law at Planned Parenthood’s national office, acknowledged the limitations of Crump’s order but said it was a step in the right direction.

“It doesn’t get us all the way to where we need to be, which is to be able to resume services (after a fetal heartbeat is detected) again, and obviously that’s the hope for the case for the long term,” Sandman said Monday after Crump signed the order.

Attorney Julie Murray, who is representing Planned Parenthood in the lawsuit, said during the hearing that injunctive relief wouldn’t mean her clients would stop complying with Senate Bill 8 — abortions would not be performed if a fetal heartbeat were detected. She said the intention of her clients’ lawsuit is to block frivolous lawsuits, which she fears could be used to frighten providers from facilitating abortions even before a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Under SB 8, private citizens are empowered to file lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy in Texas. Parties who bring successful lawsuits will be granted $10,000 and are entitled to compensation for legal fees.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

According to Planned Parenthood, this impacts the majority of instances where a woman is seeking an abortion. Prior to SB 8, 85% to 90% of abortions occurred after the six-week mark.

Federal lawsuits looms

As abortion rights groups wage legal battles in state court to fend off enforcement of SB 8 in state district courts, lawsuits filed in federal court are attempting to have the law thrown out. The lawsuit filed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland last week requests a preliminary and permanent injunction on the grounds that the law violates the U.S. Constitution. That case stands before U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin.

Abortion rights advocates are hopeful an injunction in federal court would halt enforcement of SB 8 across the board — rather than the piecemeal roadblocks the lawsuits in state district courts have established.

“The challenge for everyone, from the providers to the federal government, isn’t how to win individual lawsuits; it’s how to prevent future SB 8 lawsuits from even being filed,” explained Stephen Vladeck, the Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts at the University of Texas School of Law.

In state district court, Vladeck said, there isn’t a direct road to having the law thrown out.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

During the hearing on Monday, attorneys for Texas Right to Life, its legislative director John Seago and unnamed John Does who have been in contact with the organization, requested to block Planned Parenthood from revealing the names of the John Does in court records going forward.

“Not only would this be a perverse attack on Texas Right to Life’s First Amendment rights, but the move would have expanded Planned Parenthood’s campaign against Pro-Life Texans, empowering them to prevent other activists from enforcing the Texas Heartbeat Act,” the organization wrote in a statement following the hearing.

The request came after a bomb threat to the organization’s Houston headquarters on Friday. Texas Right to Life said in a Saturday news release that its staff and leadership has been threatened since SB 8 took effect at the beginning of the month.

“Texas Right to Life has taken proactive measures to ensure the safety of our staff since we began receiving violent messages online and by phone,” the release said. The group insists that its efforts are saving lives and that it won’t be deterred by legal challenges.

The decision regarding public disclosure of the names of John Does acting in concert with Texas Right to Life will be decided in a hearing on Sept. 30.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse
Written By

ADVERTISEMENT

Mask It Up

Read The Current Issue

Texas Metro News

ADVERTISEMENT

You May Also Like

COVID-19 News

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas...

DMN Stories

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas...

DMN Stories

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas...

DMN Stories

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas...

Advertisement