Texas Republicans Warn Pro-Abortion Groups About Felony Charges

GOP lawmakers in Texas are warning pro-abortion groups that efforts to help women get abortions could violate state laws and result in felony charges.

The Texas Freedom Caucus sent a letter this month to Sidley LLP law firm, which has offered to pay the expenses of women who want to travel to another state where it is still legal to abort unborn children and other violations.

The letter says, in part:

It has come to our attention that Sidley Austin has decided to reimburse the travel costs of employees who leave Texas to murder their unborn children. It also appears that Sidley has been complicit in illegal abortions that were performed in Texas before and after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392. We are writing to inform you of the consequences that you and your colleagues will face for these actions.

Abortion is a felony criminal offense in Texas unless the mother’s life is in danger. See West’s Texas Civil Statutes, article 4512.1 (1974) (attached). The law of Texas also imposes felony criminal liability on any person who “furnishes the means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended.” West’s Texas Civil Statutes, article 4512.2 (1974). This has been the law of Texas since 1925, and Texas did not repeal these criminal prohibitions in response to Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). These criminal prohibitions extend to drug-induced abortions if any part of the drug regimen is ingested in Texas, even if the drugs were dispensed by an out-of-state abortionist. To the extent that Sidley is facilitating abortions performed in violation of article 4512.1, it is exposing itself and each of its partners to felony criminal prosecution and disbarment.

It also appears that Sidley may have aided or abetted drug-induced abortions in violation of the Texas Heartbeat Act, by paying for abortions (or abortion-related travel) in which the patient ingested the second drug in Texas after receiving the drugs from an out-of-state provider. Litigation is already underway to uncover the identity of those who aided or abetted these and other illegal abortions.

The Guardian reported on the development as “threats” to women seeking abortion and the caucus’s upcoming effort to craft legislation to strengthen state laws to protect unborn children:

The lawmakers also outlined proposed legislation that would allow individuals to sue anyone who financially assists with a Texan’s abortion, regardless of where the abortion occurs. The law proposes that such assistance be considered criminal even if a Texan travelled out of state for a medication abortion and took part of the drug in Texas.

Texas already allows individuals to bring civil cases on abortion, potentially costing defendants tens of thousands of dollars; the proposed new legislation would build on it, making defendants liable for actions that happen out-of-state, even where abortion is still legal.

The letter is just the latest move by rightwing lawmakers, lawyers and activists to crack down on abortion provision in Texas. Last week, the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, sued the Biden administration for mandating that states provide abortions in medical emergencies. In March, a state legislator, Briscoe Cain, sent a cease and desist letter to Citibank, who had announced a policy to pay for employees’ out of state abortion expenses.

“’What they’re really doing is a spaghetti test, where they’re just gonna throw everything at the wall and see what the courts are willing to stomach,’ Brian Hauss, a staff attorney for the ACLU,” said in the Guardian report.

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