AUSTIN (KXAN) — Could the Texas economy soon feel the backlash to the state’s highly controversial — and many argue unconstitutional — law banning abortion after six weeks?
This week, the state of Texas was ensconced in national headlines after Senate Bill 8, the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S., went into effect Sept. 1. The bill bans abortions from being performed once a fetal heartbeat is detected — as soon as six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant.
Many doctors and medical professionals even argue “fetal heartbeat” is a misnomer, because what many hear as a “heartbeat” at this stage is actually “electrically induced flickering” of fetal tissue, called a “pole.”
SB 8 also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion: many say this would essentially put a bounty on people’s heads and encourage frivolous lawsuits. Citizens can be sued for up to $10,000 if an abortion is performed outside of the six weeks period.
President Joe Biden said the law blatantly violates constitutional rights established under Roe v. Wade. Biden slammed SB 8 as “unconstitutional chaos.”
In a statement Thursday, Biden said:
“This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest. And it not only empowers complete strangers to inject themselves into the most private of decisions made by a woman — it actually incentivizes them to do so with the prospect of $10,000 if they win their case.”Pres. Joe Biden
Despite the outcry, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law to stand on Tuesday, after a group of Texas abortion clinics and advocates requested the law be blocked. SCOTUS could still make a move soon.
Biden knocked SCOTUS for refusing to block the law without allowing a lower court to hear it first, but promised he’d launch a “whole-of-government effort” in response to the decision. Biden said the federal government will work “to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”
Previously, companies including Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Unilever, and Patagonia urged Texas lawmakers to reconsider more restrictive Texas elections laws, which have also passed, despite national outcry.
While so far, direct threats from corporations aren’t being made, calls for them to do so are.
U.S. Rep. Steven Woodrow, of Colorado, tweeted of the law: “Karen, who monitors how often you water your lawn, now gets $10,000 to patrol your uterus. #BoycottTexas.” Saturday morning, nearly 13,000 tweets bore the hashtag.
Earlier this week, Shar Dubey, CEO of matchmaking companies Bumble and Match, both headquartered in Texas, wrote in a memo: “Surely everyone should see the danger of this highly punitive and unfair law that doesn’t even make an exception for victims of rape or incest. I would hate for our state to take this big step back in women’s rights.”
Actress Rosanna Arquette made headlines Saturday after announcing she turned down being in a movie because “it shoots in Texas.”
Writer Megan Kelley Hall is among the call’s strongest voices, with her tweets calling out specific companies to take action.
In a swift move, Lyft and Uber announced they’d cover legal fees for drivers who get sued for taking pregnant people to abortion clinics. In a statement, Lyft wrote, “This law is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy… nothing about how you drive, ride, or interact with each other should change.”
Lyft’s defense fund will reportedly cover the entirety of any legal fees a driver may incur. Uber later followed up with its own announcement, saying: “Drivers shouldn’t be put at risk for getting people where they want to go. Team Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push.”
Lyft also said it would be donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood to combat “an attack on women’s right to choose.”
What happens now?
A Travis County district court judge has already granted a temporary restraining order against the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life: stopping the group from suing Texas Planned Parenthood centers. Meanwhile, hordes of TikTok users spammed a whistleblower website — which promises anonymous reporting of ban violators — with fake tips, memes and even the script for the 2007 animated “Bee Movie.” The website became so overwhelmed, its tip line shut down. Domain host GoDaddy also completely shut the site down for violation of service terms.
While it’s still relatively early, Texans’ eyes are now fixed on corporate America to make the difference.
Elsewhere, some SB 8 opponents stand against a boycott of Texas businesses, arguing those responsible won’t be the ones to feel the effects. Instead, some people and organizations, like advocacy group The Lilith Fund, recommend directing dollars to abortion funds that assist access.