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Monday, October 25, 2021

Hiltzik: Texas anti-abortion law is even worse than you imagined

As is now widely known, the anti-abortion law that came into force in Texas last month set a new standard for malicious attacks on women’s reproductive health rights.

But it’s fair to bet that his grudge against anyone who wants to have an abortion is not so widely known. However, its detrimental characteristics were detailed Wednesday by Austin-based federal district judge Robert Pitman.

Pitman temporarily blocked enforcement of the law with a well-reasoned 113-page ruling in a lawsuit filed by the federal government. In the process, he aptly shot the majority in the US Supreme Court, which made it possible to enter into force on September 1.

When asked by Texas to suspend its preliminary injunction until the state could appeal to the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, known to be a very conservative court, Pitman flatly refused.

Unlike the majority in the Supreme Court, “this court does not authorize another day of this insulting deprivation of such an important right,” he said.

Pitman’s report on the flaws of the law highlights the irresponsibility of corporate leaders with interests in Texas who remain silent and take no action to combat the law.

One of the first places on the list of implicated business leaders is Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who announced this week that he will move Tesla’s headquarters to Austin. The move will restrict the reproductive rights of women in his Texas state and put all of his headquarters staff right under the crosshairs of Texas law.

He does not care? Texas Governor Greg Abbott claimed that Musk told him that he “had to leave California, in part because of social policies” in California, and that Musk “constantly tells me that he likes social policies in Texas.”

Offering an opportunity to clarify, Musk tweeted: “In general, I believe that the government should rarely impose its will on people, and in doing so, it should strive to maximize their aggregate happiness.”

The law effectively criminalizes abortions performed after six weeks of pregnancy, a deadline that can occur even before many women know they are pregnant. It contains no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or for fetal health conditions incompatible with life after birth.

The law establishes liability for anyone who “knowingly” facilitates or abets abortion in violation of its terms. It does not define aiding or abetting, but clarifies that paying or reimbursing the cost of an abortion falls within the definition.

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An innovative feature of the law is that it places responsibility for the implementation of the law not on state bodies, but on any individual who decides to file a claim. They can sue for an injunction prohibiting abortion and can collect at least $ 10,000 in compensation from their goals, as well as legal costs and attorney fees.

What may be less widely known about the law is the limitations it places on goals that try to protect themselves. They cannot defend what they considered the law to be unconstitutional. They cannot claim to have relied on a court decision annulling the law if it was later overturned, even if it was in effect when they acted.

Defendants cannot recover the costs and fees of lawyers, even if they win the case in court.

“By eliminating safe and legal options, they are only forcing abortion care underground with potentially devastating consequences,” Melanie Linton, head of family planning in the Houston area, told Pitman Court.

Unsurprisingly, the burden of the law has a disproportionate economic and racial impact. “Pregnant patients seeking abortion care are often low income and below the federal poverty line,” Dallas clinician Allison Gilbert told the court, adding that “14.7% of Texans in employment live in poverty and 34.5 % – with low income.

“This number is even higher for women of color; 19.1% of black women and 20.5% of Latin women live in poverty in Texas, ”she said.

Thus, it is a legal regime that is indirectly sanctioned by companies that remain silent or, worse, decide to establish or expand their operations in dark Texas. These include Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, two Silicon Valley backers who announced plans to move their headquarters to Texas in December. Musk responded to Governor Abbott’s bragging about his state’s social policies with a tweet that said, “I’d rather not get involved in politics.”

Here’s a piece of advice to Musk and his colleagues who might become Texas business tycoons: You can’t stay out of politics. You are a major employer and politics affects your employees on a daily basis. If you really want to save the world, as you claim, you should start right here.

Michael Hilzik is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. © 2021 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by the Tribune content agency.

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