A group of Republican lawmakers in Texas have pledged to introduce legislation that would bar private companies from doing business in the state if they offer benefits or travel funds for employees seeking abortions in other states where the procedure is legal.
With abortions set to become automatically banned in Texas if Roe v Wade is overturned by the US Supreme Court next month, this recent escalation reflects how intent the state’s GOP lawmakers are to not only ban the procedure within their own borders, but severely hinder an individual’s ability to access it outside state lines.
The 14 lawmakers who signed the proposal, led by state Rep Briscoe Cain, addressed their letter to Lyft CEO Logan Green in a statement made public Wednesday, The Texas Tribune reported.
“The state of Texas will take swift and decisive action if you do not immediately rescind your recently announced policy to pay for the travel expenses of women who abort their unborn children,” the letter read.
In April, the ride-hailing CEO wrote on Twitter that his company stood behind providing women access to healthcare in states that had begun prohibiting abortion-related services and that he would similarly stand behind his employees who, similarly, had come under fire in states like Oklahoma and Texas, a state that in the fall passed a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a prohibited abortion, such as drivers.
“Women’s access to healthcare is under attack again,” Mr Green wrote. “We believe transportation shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing healthcare and it’s our duty to support both our rider and driver communities,” he added before laying out that Lyft would cover 100 per cent of the legal fees for drivers facing lawsuits in Texas and Oklahoma.
The Lyft CEO also promised to cover travel costs for employees enrolled in the company’s medical plan who are seeking out-of-state abortions for up to 100-plus miles to “an in-network abortion provider”.
Mr Green’s announcement on Twitter arrived just days before a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court revealed that the landmark Roe v Wade ruling is set to be overturned, a decision that will likely be officially announced later next month.
In the weeks that followed from the leaked opinion, first reported on by Politico, dozens of executives from major American companies began revealing their own plans to support employees working and living in one of the 26 states which are “certain or likely” to ban abortion should the 1973 legislation be overturned.
Companies like Amazon – which employs over 3,000 employees at the Austin Tech Hub, Tesla – which was recently celebrated by Texas Governor Greg Abbott for the opening of the state’s gigafactory, Apple, Starbucks and many other large American corporations have established large workforces in the state.
A lot of these companies have also announced in recent weeks and months varying levels of support for providing out-of-state abortion care.
While it’s unclear if the lawmakers, nearly half of whom hail from the far-right Texas Freedom Caucus, including the main sponsor, Mr Cain, who signalled their support for this bill would be able to get a majority, if it did pass, it would prevent these companies from offering abortion-related care. And if they did, there could be real legal implications.
The proposal, which the lawmakers signalled they’re preparing to introduce in the next legislative session, outlines a section where they intend to include a stipulation that Texas shareholders of publicly traded companies would be able to sue companies or executives for providing abortion care.
The letter also states that another legislative priority for the lawmakers is to empower district attorneys to prosecute abortion-related crimes outside of their home counties.
And, if the firms did decide to go ahead with offering it anyway, it could lead to executives facing criminal prosecution, as Texas still retains pre-Roe anti-abortion laws that were never removed from the legislature, the Tribune reported the legislators saying in the letter.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Cain and Governor Abbott for comment on the proposed bill.