Navigating Texas’ new abortion law will be tricky for providers, experts say

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Monica Faulkner is suing the state over new abortion restrictions that went into effect Wednesday.

A social worker for 20 years, she told KXAN she’s concerned about how the new law could affect her when she helps victims of sexual assault.

“The way I see it, someone had to stand up,” said Faulkner.

The law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect fetal cardiac activity, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy. The law allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids and abets” in an abortion, other than the patient. Damages could add up to $10,000.

Faulkner remarked “aiding and abetting” could mean referring someone to an abortion provider or simply talking with a victim about their options following a sexual assault.

“The bill defines aiding and abetting an abortion very vaguely,” she said. “We’re talking about advocates who don’t make a lot of money. They can’t afford $10,000-plus attorney fees.”

Abigail Aiken, a reproductive health expert who teaches at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, added because of the legal threat, abortion providers may be more conservative in making exceptions under the law.

The new law makes exceptions for abortion after six weeks if there is a risk of death or “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” There aren’t any specific medical conditions listed in the law that would be an exception; it would be up to a doctor’s reasonable medical judgment.

“It’s difficult to think how this would actually work,” said Aiken.

She added abortion providers could challenge any lawsuits in court, which may even lead to a broader ruling on Roe v. Wade.

“Providers would have a mechanism for challenging that, all the way through the state court, the district court and to the Supreme Court,” said Aiken. “But I think that’s also an intentional part of this bill, that if these private lawsuits don’t stop abortions, then let’s have the Supreme Court actually reconsider the right to choose abortion in this country.”

This week, a Travis County district judge temporarily blocked potential lawsuits from being filed under the new law.

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