Texas Judge Blocks Vigilante Lawsuit Against Planned Parenthood
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
In a small but significant victory against Texas' new draconian law limiting abortion access, a judge has temporarily blocked one of the state's largest forced-birth groups and its vigilante pals from suing the nation's largest provider of reproductive healthcare. The decision, which is by no means a permanent solution, comes as corporations headquartered or operating within the Lone Star State are also speaking out against the law.
Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble granted Planned Parenthood a temporary restraining order against the anti-abortion group, Texas Right to Life, blocking the group and its allies from using an unusual mechanism of the Texas law that enables private citizens to sue anyone who provides or "aids or abets" an abortion after six weeks.
Guerra Gamble said in her three-page written order that allowing the so-called private enforcement mechanism to go forward while Planned Parenthood took further legal action would cause "probable, irreparable and imminent injury" that could not be cured later.
The Travis County restraining order does not bar others from using the law against Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers in Texas. A hearing on a possible further injunction was set for Sept. 13.
As noted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America's vice president for public policy litigation and law Helene Krasnoff, while Guerra Gamble's decision is one worth celebrating, it is not enough to protect Texans' access to reproductive healthcare. "[M]ake no mistake: this is not enough relief for Texas," she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the corporate wing of the nation is beginning to speak out. Two top dating apps based in Texas were quick to take a stance against the obscene new law.. Austin-based Bumble announced its plans on Twitter hours after the Supreme Court declined to block the law from taking effect at midnight on Wednesday.
As CNBC reported Thursday, the Match dating empire wasn't far behind.
Match Group CEO Shar Dubey also announced in a memo to employees that she would personally create a fund to support Texas-based workers and dependents who needed to seek care outside of the state, a company spokesperson confirmed to CNBC.
Match, based in Dallas, owns a bevy of dating companies, including its namesake app Match along with Hinge, Tinder and OKCupid.
"As I have said before, the company generally does not take political stands unless it is relevant to our business. But in this instance, I personally, as a woman in Texas, could not keep silent," Dubey said in the memo. "Surely everyone should see the danger of this highly punitive and unfair law that doesn't even make an exception for victims of rape or incest. I would hate for our state to take this big step back in women's rights," she added.
Dating apps aren't the only businesses speaking out.
Lyft and Uber Technologies Inc. said they will cover all legal fees for the ride-hail companies' drivers sued under a law that puts in place a near-total ban on abortion.
Lyft will also donate $1 million to women's health provider Planned Parenthood, chief executive Logan Green said on Twitter.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted in response to Green's announcement that his company would cover drivers' legal fees in the same way, thanking Green for taking the initiative.
Yet, as The New York Times notes, other companies' silence on the issue is deafening.
When Texas lawmakers advanced a restrictive voting rights bill this year, American Airlines and Dell Technologies, two of the state's biggest employers, were early and vocal critics of the effort.
But this week, as a law that prohibits most abortions after about six weeks took effect in Texas, both companies declined to comment on the measure.
Two dozen major companies contacted by The New York Times on Friday either did not reply or declined to comment. Among those that would not say something were McDonald's, a sponsor of International Women's Day; PwC, a major supporter of diversity and inclusion efforts; and Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, which led a corporate backlash last year against a restrictive voting bill in Georgia, where they have their headquarters.
Many of the biggest employers in Texas, including AT&T, Oracle, McKesson and Phillips 66, declined to comment. Even companies that are quick to speak up on social issues, including Patagonia and Levi's, did not say anything about the new law. And Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that teams up with big companies to "build workplaces that work for women," declined to comment.
After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott crowed about companies' support of the anti-choice law, namedropping Tesla's Elon Musk, the electric car pioneer offered a lukewarm response.
As Fortune noted on Friday, the seeming indifference of corporations to the Texas law is startling … and a bit of a change.
In 2019, almost 200 corporate leaders stood up for abortion rights. Amid a rash of antiabortion legislation throughout the U.S. South, they said: no more. Abortion restrictions are bad for business.
And yet this time around, the business backlash is missing.
"Their silence is shameful," says Shelley Alpern, director of shareholder advocacy for Rhia Ventures who has worked to galvanize companies around reproductive rights. "Their very integrity is at stake."
Fortune reached out to "about a dozen" companies about the new law, but most did not respond. What will it take to get the nation's industry to flex their significant capital and muscle when it comes to reproductive rights? It's unclear. But as Fortune notes, recent research indicates that as much as two-thirds of the college-educated workforce would refuse a new job in Texas due to the new law.
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