The Newest Brand of Abortion Ban Is Next-Level Cruelty

This is just terrible.

S.B. 8 specifically takes enforcement of the law out of the state’s hands, deputizing any private citizen who does not work for the government to do that job instead. Under the new law, random people would be incentivized to sue in civil court — to the tune of at least $10,000 in damages per termination — not only abortion providers, but also anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.” The latter category seemingly includes insurance companies, along with abortion funds that help people pay for the procedure and its attendant hidden costs. “Obviously we have a target on our back being abortion funds,” Cristina Parker, communications director of Texas’s Lilith Fund, told Jezebel. “We’ve got support on deck for if and when we get sued, but there’s not much to prevent folks from doing it.”

In short, Texas’s unprecedented tactic mobilizes untold private bounty hunters (complainants do not even need to live in Texas, necessarily, or be at all connected to the people they accuse), offering them a financial reward in exchange for policing clinics, physicians, aid groups, and other people who might, for example, agree to a favor as small as driving their friend to an appointment, or accepting the Uber fare. The law promotes a frankly unhinged degree of interpersonal surveillance, and unfortunately, that winds up being its strength. In dividing up the enforcement task between so many as-yet-unnamed players, lawmakers preserved the policy against injunction. As Jezebel notes, legal groups and/or providers typically sue state officials when faced with an unconstitutional abortion ban, blocking the law from taking effect on grounds that it violates precedent established by Roe v. Wade. But in this case, there is no clear defendant to name; just the credible threat of expedient action from anti-abortion zealots who are ready to act immediately. Providers did still try to stop S.B. 8 from taking effect before September 1, but they were not successful.