Temporary restraining order would prevent lawsuits against health center staff under “sue thy neighbor” law
AUSTIN — Today, the District Court for Travis County granted a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life and its associates, stopping them from suing abortion providers and health care workers at Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas under the newly in-effect “sue thy neighbor” abortion ban, S.B. 8. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, to go into effect on Wednesday. Millions of Texans are now without access to abortion, and providers and support networks are vulnerable to malicious lawsuits.
The temporary restraining order was filed by Planned Parenthood South Texas Surgical Center, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services, Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, and Planned Parenthood Center for Choice abortion provider Dr. Bhavik Kumar. Under the temporary restraining order, Texas Right to Life, its legislative director John Seago, and anyone acting in concert with them is barred from bringing lawsuits against Planned Parenthood, Dr. Kumar, and employees of the Texas health centers under S.B. 8’s private enforcement provision while litigation against the unconstitutional law continues.
S.B. 8 is already decimating abortion access in the state, as providers are forced to turn people away under the six-week abortion ban. Historically, the overwhelming majority — 85 to 90 percent — of Texans who obtain abortions in the state are at least six weeks into pregnancy. Under S.B. 8, the nation’s first six-week abortion ban allowed to take effect, few will be able to receive care in the state, forcing patients to bear the financial and emotional cost of traveling elsewhere for essential care, and during a pandemic. For many Texans, particularly those who are Black or Latinx, who have low incomes, or who live in rural areas, abortion will be completely unattainable.
Statement from Helene Krasnoff, vice president for public policy litigation and law, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
We are relieved that the Travis County district court has acted quickly to grant this restraining order against Texas Right to Life and anyone working with them as deputized enforcers of this draconian law. 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. But make no mistake: this is not enough relief for Texas. Planned Parenthood will continue fighting for the millions of Texans affected by S.B. 8., doing everything we can under the law to restore Texans’ federal constitutional right to access abortion.
Earlier this week, the Travis County court issued restraining orders against Texas Right to Life on behalf of several individual plaintiffs in several separate cases. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed S.B. 8 to take effect on Wednesday, disregarding 50 years of precedent by denying an emergency request to block S.B. 8 and its pre-viability abortion ban.
Plaintiffs are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Kaplan Law Firm, PLLC, and Waters & Kraus, LLP.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.