87th LegislatureAbortion Facilities Aim to Halt Private ‘Heartbeat Act’ Lawsuits Preemptively After Supreme Court Denial

Pro-life lobbying group Texas Right to Life has become a litigation lightning rod after encouraging private enforcement of the new law.
September 8, 2021
The Texas Heartbeat Act reached national prominence when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a lawsuit by various abortion facilities against the state. Meanwhile, other abortion facilities and physicians have been filing narrower lawsuits in piecemeal attempts to stop private enforcement of the newly effective bill. Its unique structure has partially frustrated these efforts.

Texas Right to Life (TRTL), a prominent pro-life lobbying group based in Houston, has especially become a lightning rod for these suits. Ahead of the bill’s effective date on September 1, the group encouraged citizens to sue under the act, which authorizes most Texans to sue anybody other than the mother that performs or aids a post-heartbeat abortion. The group also set up a website to report violations of the new law, though the site’s host GoDaddy recently scuttled it.

Dallas attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel filed a lawsuit on August 23 against TRTL and several John Does meant to represent yet-unnamed associates of the group that could sue violators of the Heartbeat Act. Tuegel eventually won a temporary restraining order against TRTL and the John Does in Travis County District Court on the eve of the act’s effective date. However, the order only prevents TRTL and its associates from suing Tuegel.

Several branches of Planned Parenthood sued the organization more effectively. Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Planned Parenthood South Texas Surgical Center, Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, and abortion physician Bhavik Kumar also won a temporary restraining order in Travis County. The order forbids TRTL and 100 unnamed associates from suing these plaintiffs under the law.

Despite these early victories for abortion facilities, the law seems to be having the desired effect. Since it authorizes enforcement lawsuits by any Texan, other than fathers who conceived the aborted child by rape or incest, the temporary restraining orders against TRTL don’t provide Planned Parenthood much protection.

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As such, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have halted post-heartbeat abortions.

SB 8 is already decimating abortion access in the state, as providers are forced to turn people away under the six-week abortion ban,” Planned Parenthood stated.

“Historically, the overwhelming majority — 85 to 90 percent — of Texans who obtain abortions in the state are at least six weeks into pregnancy. Under SB 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.”

TRTL top brass praised these results.

“This lawsuit will not stop the work of Texas Right to Life,” Vice President Elizabeth Graham said of Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit.

“Estimates are that approximately 150 babies per day are being saved because of Texas Right to Life’s leadership on the Texas Heartbeat Act. Planned Parenthood can keep suing us, but Texas Right to Life will never back down from protecting pregnant women and preborn children from abortion.”


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.