Wendy Davis, Stigma Relief Fund, and Texas Abortion Fund Supporters File New Legal Challenge to Texas Abortion Ban
Filing comes after several private citizens and Texas State Representative threaten Texas abortion funds and their associates with civil liability and criminal prosecution
04/19/22 – (PRESS RELEASE) Moments ago, the Stigma Relief Fund – an abortion fund that provides financial and practical support to Texas abortion patients – its Board chair Marva Sadler and board member Sean Mehl, and a well-known abortion rights supporter – former Texas state Senator Wendy Davis – filed a new challenge to Texas Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8) in federal district court seeking a declaration that the law is unconstitutional. S.B. 8 not only bans abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy, but it encourages vigilante harassment of anyone who provides assistance to abortion patients. Since it took effect nearly eight months ago, it has dramatically reduced abortion access in Texas, forced thousands of Texans to travel out of state for care, and significantly increased second-trimester abortions.
The defendants in today’s challenge are several private citizens who have threatened to enforce S.B. 8 against abortion funds and their donors, employees, and volunteers, even though the statute is unenforceable because it is blatantly unconstitutional. Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain is also a defendant; he recently sent cease and desist letters threatening Texas abortion funds and their associates with prosecution under the criminal abortion ban declared unconstitutional in Roe v. Wade. Although the defendants are unwilling to recognize that the federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land, the plaintiffs trust that the federal courts will.
“We are asking the courts today to stop the unconstitutional harassment of abortion funds by confirming S.B.8 cannot be used to silence donors with bogus threats,” said Wendy Davis, former Texas state Senator and a plaintiff in today’s challenge. “More than that, we are asking the courts to stop the nightmare S.B.8 has created for Texans if they need abortion services.
“It is vital we show up for abortion funds and practical support organizations as they have shown up for pregnant Texans. If you want to fight back against abortion bans like Texas’ S.B.8, donate to your local abortion fund and practical support organization today.”
Texans who are able to travel out of state for abortion care are doing so at the expense of their well-being, dignity, financial resources, and job and care-taking responsibilities. The influx of Texas patients is straining the abortion clinics in neighboring states, including Oklahoma, which has an abortion ban slated to take effect this summer, and substantially delaying the abortion care of patients across the country. Texans unable to leave the state for care are suffering the life-altering physical, emotional, and economic consequences of forced pregnancy and childbirth.
“S.B. 8 has devastated access to abortion care in Texas, and the ripple effects of its continued enforcement are felt deeply by patients in Texas and in states across the country,” said Marva Sadler, Board Chair for the Stigma Relief Fund and Senior Director of Clinical Services for Whole Woman’s Health.
“Abortion funds are doing everything we can to pick up the slack, giving people the financial and logistical support they need to get the abortion care they deserve. Our donors and staff are threatened every day by this cruel, inhumane ban and its anti-abortion enforcers whose values do not reflect the majority of Texans. This law needs to be stopped now before it causes any more destruction in the communities and families of Texans.”
Abortion providers, abortion funds, and practical support organizations have filed several challenges to S.B. 8, including Whole Woman’s Health v Jackson, and the federal government challenged the law in United States v. Texas, but these cases are stalled.
“As an abortion fund donor and board member, I know the critical role funds play in ensuring people are connected with the health care they need,” said Sean Mehl, board member at the Stigma Relief Fund and Associate Director of Clinical Services at Whole Woman’s Health. “During these last 8 months of S.B.8, abortion funds have shown up for pregnant Texans time and time again. They should be lauded rather than harassed for their efforts. It is time for the courts to step in and stop this cruel and unconstitutional ban before it causes any more damage to our communities and the people we serve.”
Wendy Davis, Marva Sadler, Sean Mehl, and the Stigma Relief Fund are represented by the Lawyering Project and Dorian Vandenberg-Rodes of Shellist Lazarz Slobin LLP in this legal challenge, which was filed in federal district court in Austin.
“For nearly eight months, S.B. 8 has forced Texans who need an abortion to disrupt their lives during a pandemic and travel out of state for care, significantly delaying their abortions. And that’s the best-case scenario. Despite the remarkable efforts of abortion funds and practical support organizations, all too many Texans ultimately lack the resources or mobility to access abortion at great distances from home and thus face the devastating consequences of unwanted pregnancy. Today, we are asking the court to end Texas’ defiance of the rule of law and uphold the fundamental rights of its residents,” said Rupali Sharma, Senior Counsel and Director at the Lawyering Project.
Donations can be made to the Stigma Relief Fund here. Interested in donating to other abortion funds and practical support organizations that provide a broad range of services to pregnant people seeking abortion care throughout Texas, including funding, emotional support and abortion doula services, transportation, accommodation, childcare, legal representation, and judicial bypass support for young people? Click here.