With the quiet implementation of a new recruitment measure promising coverage of travel costs for employees seeking abortions, Citibank is the latest company to venture into uncharted waters.
Citigroup Inc. leadership announced in a stockholder memo that it would pay for travel to “facilitate” abortion access for employees living in states with newly stringent abortion laws.
“In response to changes in reproductive healthcare laws in certain states in the U.S., beginning in 2022 we provide travel benefits to facilitate access to adequate resources,” the letter reads.
In response, state Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) floated the idea that the recruitment initiative might result in Texas ending business dealings with Citi and said paying for abortions violates Texas law.
“Did Citibank just trigger Texas laws that prevent the State of Texas from doing business with abortion affiliates?” Schaefer suggested on Twitter.
In 2019, the Texas legislature passed a state law that forbids state and local governments from entering into any “taxpayer resource transaction” with abortion providers or their affiliates. However, the law defines “affiliate” as a person or company in a written agreement with an abortion provider, such as a common ownership contract.
Citi faces a likelier threat of legal repercussion under a more recent law: the Texas Heartbeat Act, passed in the 2021 state legislature as Senate Bill (SB) 8. The law bans the abortion of an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat and creates a private right of action to let citizens sue anybody besides the mother herself that performs, aids, or pays for a post-heartbeat abortion.
SB 8 explicitly names “paying for or reimbursing the costs” of a post-heartbeat abortion among other violations. However, whether or not this would apply to Citi’s coverage of travel costs is unclear, even among legal scholars. Abortions performed on a child with a detectable heartbeat in other states would technically not violate SB 8, meaning financial aid for those abortions — even from Texas — could be defended under the bill.
Additionally, SB 8 says it does not authorize penalties for protected speech under the First Amendment, which can include financial conduct.
Schaefer also included pictures of Texas’s abortion ban, the statutes at the center of the Roe v. Wade lawsuit. Under the statutes, furnishing the means to procure an abortion is punishable by two to five years in prison.
The pictures Schaefer posted come from the 1974 publication of West’s Civil Statutes. By 1984, the same laws included a flagged footnote observing that the U.S. Supreme Court declared the abortion ban unconstitutional in the Roe decision.
However, as the legislature notes in the text at the beginning of SB 8, the pre-Roe laws themselves were never repealed.
Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) sent the company a cease-and-desist letter and promised to file a bill in the next legislative session that would allow district attorneys to prosecute abortion aid in other counties.
Other Texas Republicans called for a boycott on Citibank, including Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi.
“Republicans should avoid entrusting their finances with Citibank and other companies that are hostile to them and their values,” Rinaldi told CBS.
“Citigroup’s decision to finance the murder of unborn children with a heartbeat is appalling, but not surprising, considering [its] past adoption of far-left causes.”
Current Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who is running to replace Ken Paxton as state attorney general, promised to use the attorney general’s office to prosecute similar behavior if elected.
“The ‘travel benefits’ offered by Citigroup is nothing more than a PR stunt by a ‘woke’ company to support a culture of death,” Bush said.
“Texas is a pro-life state, and if elected Attorney General, I will hold actors who attempt to find loopholes in our laws accountable.”
Schaefer did not respond for comment.
Two abortion funds are currently facing legal action in state district courts under SB 8 for paying for the costs of abortions.
Update: This article has been updated to include information about Rep. Cain’s cease-and-desist letter.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Supreme Court enjoined enforcement of certain sections of the penal code in Roe v. Wade. We regret the error.
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