Several Texas Republicans sent Sidley a letter on Thursday warning the company that paying for their employees’ abortion costs could expose them to criminal penalties.
“It has come to our attention that Sidley Austin has decided to reimburse the travel costs of employees who leave Texas to murder their unborn children,” the Texas Freedom Caucus wrote to Sidley’s Dallas branch office.
“It also appears that Sidley has been complicit in illegal abortions that were performed in Texas before and after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392. We are writing to inform you of the consequences that you and your colleagues will face for these actions.”
The Texas Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative members of the Texas House, observes in the letter that Texas never repealed the abortion ban once deemed unconstitutional in Roe v. Wade. Once Roe was overturned, the old statutes regained effect, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
These statutes make it a crime to attempt, perform, or furnish the means to procure an elective abortion.
Additionally, a state law passed last year that bans the abortion of unborn children with a detectable heartbeat also forbids paying for such abortions.
The caucus members claim Sidley may have paid for abortion pills for Texas employees in addition to covering travel costs for out-of-state abortions, violating both the old abortion ban and the Texas Heartbeat Act.
A partner from the Dallas branch could not be reached to confirm that the company reimburses employees’ travel costs for abortions.
Sidley is the latest company to receive a letter from Freedom Caucus members warning of felony penalties for abortion aid. Even before Roe was overturned last month, state Reps. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), and others warned companies like Citibank that district attorneys could legally prosecute efforts to pay for abortions without violating Roe.
Since district attorneys in Democratic urban areas have promised not to prosecute abortion crimes, Cain and other Freedom Caucus members have also promised in these letters to file legislation that will allow district attorneys around Texas to prosecute abortion crimes regardless of where they take place.
However, as evidenced by their letter to Sidney, the Freedom Caucus has expanded on this basic idea over time.
Their letter to Sidley proposes a new additional threat: legislation that would require the State Bar of Texas to disbar any lawyer that has violated Texas abortion laws.
Furthermore, the caucus promises in the Sidley letter to file a bill that would allow private citizens to sue anybody that pays for an elective abortion, an idea that Cain did not propose in his letter to Citibank. This would effectively apply an existing provision in the Texas Heartbeat Act to the entire pregnancy from conception, not just from the development of a fetal heartbeat.
Since the legislature only convenes in odd-numbered years, Cain and other lawmakers will have to wait months before filing bills.
In the meantime, their strategy may continue to evolve.
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