The conservative members of the United States Supreme Court chose to do absolutely nothing about a Texas abortion law. As a result, the law was allowed to go into effect. The Texas abortion law prohibits abortions after six weeks, which is before anyone with a uterus will have any idea that they are pregnant.
People are fighting against the Texas abortion law in some very creative and legally interesting ways.
UPDATE: Previously, this blog post said:
In addition, Texas will give at least $10,000 to anyone who successfully sues a person who helps someone to obtain an abortion. I have since learned that it is incorrect. The state of Texas is not paying $10,000 (or more) to people. It is the defendants of the misguided lawsuits who will have to come up with that money (if they lose their case).
I want to take a moment to point out the Texas six-week abortion ban not only affects women, but also affects transgender men (who may still have a uterus). It also affects children who start menstruation at the average age of 11 and who could, unfortunately, become pregnant. Most of the quotes I’ve included only mention women – so I felt the need to clarify.
Flooding the Whistleblower Website
On September 3, 2021, NBC News reported that “a handful of TikTokers” decided to flood the Texas Right to Life website with completely unrelated information in an effort to prevent “whistleblowers” from being able to use it. According to NBC News:
Many TikTock users … have deliberately sent fake information to the website including tips with titles like “Greg Abbott farts” or “calls to abort Ted Cruz”. Some have sent graphic images of Shrek, while others have reported excerpts from the 2007 “Bee Movie,” or Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series.NBC News
A person who gave NBC News an anonymous name (for his safety) coded a bot that would spam the Texas Right to Life website with fake submissions. The person said, “Once the bot is downloaded, it will automatically open the website and fill out the form with fake data that makes it look like you’re in Texas, submit it, and then re-submit it, again and again.”
On September 3, 2021, The New York Times reported that another coder created an app called Pro-Life Buster, which allowed people to automatically spam the Texas website with “bogus tips.” According to The New York Times, the app showed that 1,000 new reports had been shared.
The New York Times published a quote from Kim Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, who denied that the group’s website had been overwhelmed with false reports. “We knew this would happen, and we were prepared,” she said. “Activists have been trying to spam and take down the site for a week and failed.”
Even so, the group’s website appeared to periodically buckle on Thursday and drop under the load of reports, according to screenshots posted to Reddit and other sites… …To stem the flood of automated reports to its website, Texas Right to Life’s administrators have added a new version of Captcha, a program that tries to filter real human responses from automated computer reports.The New York Times
Taking Away the Whistleblower Website’s Hosting
On September 1, 2021, Gizmodo reported that the Texas Right to Life website was hosted by GoDaddy. According to Gizmodo, GoDaddy has a terms of service for users that mandates that its site owners cannot use a GoDaddy-hosted site to:
…collect or harvest (or permit anyone else to collect or harvest) any User Content (as defined below) on any non-public or personally identifiable information about another User or any other person or entity without their express prior written consentGoDaddy
According to a Gizmodo analysis of the webpage for submitting tips to the Texas Right to Life website found that when people “anonymously” submitted something to that website, the site covertly harvested the IP address of whomever submits the tip via a hidden field.
On September 3, 2021, GoDaddy tweeted: “We informed the website owner yesterday that they have violated GoDaddy’s terms of service and have 24 hours to move to a different provider.” That tweet was used in response to people who posted articles about the Texas Right to Life website, and who mentioned GoDaddy.
On September 3, 2021, Ars Technica reported that GoDaddy gave the Texas Right to Life’s new website 24 hours to find a new hosting provider. Ars Technica received a statement from GoDaddy which said “Last night we informed prolifewhistleblower.com they have violated GoDaddy’s terms of service and have 24 hours to move to a different provider.”
In addition, GoDaddy told Ars Technica that “the site violated multiple provisions, including, but not limited to, Section 5.2 of our terms of service”. Ars Technica clarified that the section is the one that prohibits sites from using GoDaddy to “collect or harvest… non-public or personally identifiable information” without people’s prior written consent.
Ars Technica also received a quote from Texas Right to Life. Part of that statement said that its “IT team is already in [the] process of transferring our assets to another provider and we’ll have the site restored within 24-48 hours.”
In an update, Ars Technica reported that the Texas Right to Life website found a new hosting partner – Digital Ocean. The domain registrar has rules against violating people’s privacy.
Jon Brodkin (Senior IT Reporter for Ars Technica) tweeted: “Digital Ocean apparently cut off hosting as the abortion whistleblower site is now using Epik (of Gab, Parlor, and 8chan fame) for both name servers and as its registrar. The site switched its registrar from GoDaddy to Epik a few hours ago and briefly used Digital Ocean for hosting.
On September 4, 2021, The Verge reported that it appeared that Texas Right to Life found a new hosting company.
By late Friday, it appears that it found a new home, Epik, the provider that also helped save controversial sites Gab, social media platform Parler, and internet hate forum 8chan when other web service providers wouldn’t take them, is now listed as the registrar for prolifewhistleblower.com as well. The site is having some trouble staying online though; as of 4AM ET Saturday, we saw HTTP 503 error codes when trying to access it.The Verge
Protecting Lyft and Uber Drivers from Being Sued
There are many reasons why someone would use Lyft or Uber to get to a doctor’s appointment. The person might not have a car. They may need someone to drive them home after a procedure that would leave them unable to drive themselves. People who have disabilities (like me) and can no longer be a safe driver would also benefit from using Uber or Lyft.
On September 3, 2021, The Verge reported that the law empowers private citizens across the country to sue anyone for “aiding and abetting” abortions past the six-week mark, including clinics, anyone who pays for the abortion, or even people who drive someone to the procedure.
Also on September 3, 2021, Lyft posted an blog post titled: “Defending drivers and women’s access to healthcare”. It was written by Lyft Co-founders Logan and John, and by Lyft General Counsel Kristin Sverchek. Here is what they wrote:
Dear Lyft Riders and Drivers,
A new Texas law, SB8, threatens to punish drivers for getting people to where they need to go – specifically, women exercising their right to choose and to access the healthcare they need.
We want to be clear: Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride. Similarly, riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable.
This law is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy, our community guidelines, the spirit of rideshare, and our values as a company…
Lyft stated that they would be taking action on two fronts. One: Lyft created a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100% of legal fees for drivers sued under SB8 while driving on Lyft’s platform. Two: TX SB8 is an attack on women’s right to choose. Lyft is donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood to help ensure that transportation is never a barrier to healthcare access.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted: “Right on @logangreen – 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.”
The tweet was in response to @logangreen, who pointed out what Lyft was doing to protect their drivers.
Using RFRA to Exempt People from the Texas Abortion Law
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has a good explanation of The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It describes RFRA this way:
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a law that allows religious people, businesses, and/or corporations to violate generally applicable laws by claiming that the laws conflict with their religious beliefs. The federal version is written “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person – (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” Many states have RFRA’s too, but those three concepts – burden, compelling governmental interest, and least restrictive means – appear in every RFRA.Freedom From Religion Foundation
When I think of RFRA, I think of the debacle caused when Hobby Lobby used it to take away access to birth control coverage from its female workers. However, RFRA can actually be used for good.
On September 1, 2021, The Satanic Temple tweeted: “Lawyers for The Satanic Temple (TST) sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to request that TST be able to access abortifacients without being subjected to the agency’s regulations. We still have Religious Liberty, and we believe in bodily autonomy. #roevswade”
The tweet included screenshots that provide more details in the form of a Major Announcement titled: “The Satanic Temple Demands that FDA Grants Unrestricted Access to Abortion Drugs”.
Lawyers for TST sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to request that TST be able to access abortifacients without being subjected to the agency’s regulations. Normally, access to Misoprostol (a first-trimester abortifacient) requires a prescription, and Mifepristone can only be obtained through an approved prescriber and can only be dispensed in accordance with specific guidelines. However, TST has requested that we can directly supply Satanists who wish to undergo an abortion in a religious context with these abortifacients.
Another part describes how this will work.
…TST’s ritual requires a medical examination to determine whether there are “contraindications” to obtaining an abortion as defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists or the American Academy of Family Physicians. A Satanist then returns to TST with a physician’s certification that there are no contraindications. TST will directly supply the member with the abortifacients so that they may participate in the ritual.
It is a very interesting use of RFRA, and I hope it will be accepted by courts. RFRA was never meant to only provide Christians with exemptions to laws. It was supposed to provide protections for people so they can engage in the practices and rituals of their religious beliefs.
Pushing Back Against Texas’ Abortion Law Through the Courts
Planned Parenthood obtained a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life, its legislative director John Seago, and anyone acting in concert with them. The temporary restraining order prevents them from suing abortion providers and health care workers at Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas under what Planned Parenthood describes as the “sue thy neighbor” part of the law.
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. Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, in the District Court of Travis County Texas, issued the temporary restraining order.
Here is some of what the temporary restraining order said:
…The Court finds that S.B. 8 creates a probable, irreparable, and imminent injury in the interim for which Plaintiffs and their physicians, staff, and patients throughout Texas have no adequate remedy at law if Plaintiffs, their physicians, and staff are subjected to private enforcement lawsuits against them under S.B. 8.
Money damages are insufficient to undo the injury to Plaintiffs, their physicians, and staff if the Defendants are not enjoined from instituting private enforcement lawsuits against Plaintiff under SB8. Further, money damages would be less complete, less practical, and less efficient than injunctive relief. Conversely, the Defendants will not be harmed if the Court restrains them and anyone in concert with them from instituting private enforcement lawsuits under S.B. 8 against Plaintiffs, their physicians, and staff.Temporary Restraining Order
The judge has scheduled a hearing about this on September 13, 2021. It will be done via Zoom. The temporary restraining order shall expire on September 17, 2021.
Fighting by Use of Existing Legislation
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat – California) posted a statement titled: “Pelosi Statement on Supreme Court Shadow Ruling on Texas Reproductive Rights Case”. Here is a small portion of what she wrote:
…”The Supreme Court’s cowardly, dark-of-night decision to uphold a flagrantly unconstitutional assault on women’s rights and health is staggering. That this radically partisan Court chose to do so without a full briefing, oral arguments, or providing a full, signed opinion is shameful.”…
…”Upon our return, the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health for all women across America…Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
What did Speaker Pelosi mean when she wrote “Upon our return?” She was referring to the fact that the Supreme Court allowed the Texas abortion law to go into effect not only in the “dark-of-night”, but also right before Labor Day weekend. For those outside of the United States, Labor Day is a federal holiday and it is common for public officials to take that weekend off. Government offices will be closed the entire three-day weekend.
The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 (H.R. 3755) has already been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was sent to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It can be brought to the House again. There appears to be good reason to believe this bill will pass, considering the huge amount of co-sponsors of this bill. If this bill becomes law, it would officially make Roe v. Wade the law of the land.
Part of the writing in the bill states: “This Act shall take effect immediately upon the date of enactment of this Act. This Act shall apply to all restrictions of the provision of, or access to, abortion services whether the restriction are enacted or imposed prior to or after the date of enactment of this Act, except as otherwise provided in this Act”.
According to Ballotpedia, the 117th Congress has 220 Democrats, 212 Republicans, and 3 vacancies. If every Democrat votes for this bill – it will pass. There’s even a bit of room in case a few Democrats decline to vote. My assumption is that every Republican will vote no. Republican legislators have a long history of trying to prevent people who have a uterus from having bodily autonomy.
If it passes, it moves to the Senate. There are 48 Democrats in the Senate, 50 Republicans, and 2 Independents (who typically vote with the Democrats).
Now is a good time to contact your Representatives and Senator(s) and encourage them to vote to ensure that Roe v. Wade is legally the law of the land.
What if the vote comes up 50-50? TIME reported that the Constitution designates the vice president as President of the Senate. If there is a tie vote, it is the President of the Senate who will cast their vote and break the tie. At the time I am writing this blog, the Vice President of the United States is Kamala Harris (a Democrat).
Vice President Kamala Harris posted a Statement on the Supreme Court Ruling on Texas Law SB8. It was posted on September 2, 2021. From the statement:
Last night, the Supreme Court threatened nearly 50 years of legal precedent, dealing a significant blow to Roe v. Wade and the right of women to make decisions about their own bodies. Without a hearing or due consideration, the majority of justices effectively allowed a bounty law to go into effect in Texas and an abortion ban after about six weeks of pregnancy even in cases of rape or incest.
This decision is not the last word on Roe v. Wade, and we will not stand by and allow our nation to go back to the days of back-alley abortions. We will not abide by cash incentives for virtual vigilantes and intimidation for patients. We will use every lever of our Administration to defend the right to safe and legal abortion – and to strengthen that right.Vice President Kamala Harris
I put her statement in this blog to make it clear how the Vice President will decide a tie-vote.
On September 2, 2021, President Joe Biden also made a statement about Texas SB8 and the Supreme Court’s overnight ruling. His statement is a bit longer than that of his Vice President’s. I’m going to include the last paragraph of President Biden’s statement because it provides a call to action.
…While the Chief Justice was clear to stress that the action by the Supreme Court is not a final ruling on the future of Roe, the impact of last night’s decision will be immediate and requires an immediate response. One reason I became the first president in history to create a Gender Policy Council was to be prepared to react to such assaults on women’s rights. Hence, I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure 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.President Joe Biden
Texas decided to fuck around with the health of people who have a uterus. It is about time for Texas to find out.
People Are Fighting Against The Texas Abortion Law is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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