OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today joined a coalition of 24 state attorneys general in support of the United States Department of Justice's lawsuit to block enforcement of Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) – Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional abortion ban. In an amicus brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, the coalition urged the Court to grant the federal government's motion for a preliminary injunction, stating that the ban violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and directly contravenes nearly 50 years of precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.
“Reproductive freedom is about choice – the choice of an individual, in consultation with a healthcare professional, to decide what is best for their body and future,” said Attorney General Bonta. “State laws that prohibit a person from deciding whether to terminate a pregnancy before viability are unmistakably unconstitutional, and cannot be allowed to stand.”
SB 8 bans nearly all pre-viability abortions in Texas, even in cases of rape, sexual abuse, incest, and fetal abnormalities. Similarly unconstitutional bans have been passed and challenged in South Carolina, Idaho, Tennessee, Georgia, and Oklahoma. However, lawmakers in Texas have taken their ban a step further with the addition of a prohibition on “aiding or abetting” an abortion that violates SB 8, and putting enforcement of the law in the hands of private citizens, who are deputized as bounty hunters to seek a minimum reward of $10,000 per abortion.
Abortion bans like SB 8 have already forced many individuals to travel hundreds of miles, out of state for care – a burden that is often too difficult, too time-sensitive, and too costly. For many, these costs will have both short- and long-term effects, both mentally and financially. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that “compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes.” A study in the American Journal of Public Health also found that “women denied an abortion were more likely than were women who received an abortion to experience economic hardship and insecurity lasting years” and “laws that restrict access to abortion may result in worsened economic outcomes for women.”
In today’s brief, the coalition argues that SB 8 was designed to violate the constitution and flout nearly half a century of Supreme Court precedent by using private citizens to “do precisely what Texas officials cannot do directly and what the Fourteenth Amendment forbids: the elimination of nearly all pre-viability abortions in Texas.”
California and other states in the coalition have a vested interest in ending SB 8. Attorney General Bonta is committed to ensuring that Californians who visit, work in, or attend school in Texas are safe when they seek medical care, and that California healthcare providers licensed to provide abortion services in Texas are protected from the state’s unconstitutional law. The Attorney General also seeks to halt enforcement of the ban to ensure that Californians who choose to assist Texans in obtaining abortion care are not liable under SB 8’s “aiding and abetting” provisions.
Attorney General Bonta has made protecting access to quality healthcare and defending reproductive freedom a priority, and will continue to challenge laws that unlawfully restrict reproductive rights. Next week, the Attorney General will lead a multistate amicus brief that will be filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, concerning Mississippi’s ban on pre-viability abortions. Last week, the Attorney General joined a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief in Planned Parenthood v. Wilson – a case challenging South Carolina’s unconstitutional abortion ban. In July, Attorney General Bonta co-led a coalition of state attorneys in submitting a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) supporting their reversal of the Trump Administration’s 2019 Separate Abortion Billing Rule that violated Section 1303 of the Affordable Care Act. In May, the Attorney General co-led a coalition in expressing support for and offering suggested revisions to HHS’s Proposed Rule that will undo the Trump-Pence Administration’s harmful 2019 Title X Rule. The Proposed Rule will rectify many of the harms the 2019 Rule caused women, including allowing Title X clinics to provide a referral for an abortion, if requested by the patient, and removing the current required physical separation of Title X funded services from abortion care. In April, the Attorney General’s office joined a coalition in filing an amicus brief challenging Tennessee’s unconstitutional abortion ban. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit blocked the ban.
In filing today’s amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta joined the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the brief is available here.