Washington D.C., Sep 9, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).
Since Texas’ pro-life “heartbeat” law went into effect last week, some corporations responded by donating to pro-abortion groups or issuing statements in opposition. Meanwhile, other companies have remained silent.
The Texas Heartbeat Act, which went into effect Sept. 1, prohibits abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat and is enforced through private lawsuits. Women who have an illegal abortion cannot be sued under the law.
Ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber were two of the earliest corporations to enter the debate on the corporate level. Lyft, in a Sept. 3 statement, said the law “is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy, our community guidelines, the spirit of rideshare, and our values as a company.”
Lyft officials claimed that the law threatens to unfairly punish drivers for transporting customers to abortion clinics. The company created a legal fund for drivers sued under the law, and donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood.
Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, said on Twitter that his company will be covering drivers’ legal fees as well. “Right on @logangreen- drivers shouldnt be put at risk for getting people where they want to go,” he said.
The Texas law allows for civil action against someone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement” of an illegal abortion. Plaintiffs may bring a lawsuit “regardless of whether the [defendant] knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation.”
Under the law, a defendant could offer an affirmative defense if they “reasonably believed, after conducting a reasonable investigation” that the abortion they stood accused of assisting in would have been legal.
Successful lawsuits under the law can net at least $10,000 in damages, plus court costs and attorney fees.
Other companies have also promised financial support to employees sued under the law.
In a memo to employees, Match Group CEO Shar Dubey said that the new law presented a “danger” to women, and that she is setting up a fund for her Texas employees in case they are penalized by the law. Match Group is the parent company of the dating app, Tinder.
Bumble, a dating app and competitor of Match Group, also announced its opposition to the law and said it will be donating to six pro-abortion organizations.
Not only corporations have expressed opposition to the law. The Portland city council will be voting next week on an emergency resolution to ban future travel to the state of Texas, as well as the import of goods and services from Texas, “until the unconstitutional ban on abortion is withdrawn or overturned in court.”
The vote, which was supposed to take place on Sept. 8, was postponed so the city council could spend more time deliberating the effects of the resolution. A spokesperson for the city told CNA that over the last five fiscal years, approximately $35 million have been spent on business goods and services from Texas.
The web hosting company GoDaddy made headlines recently for removing a website used to report illegal abortions in Texas.
GoDaddy notified Texas Right to Life that its website ProLifeWhistleblower.com would be taken down for violating GoDaddy policies. After the law went into effect on Sept. 1, ProLifeWhistleblower.com introduced a web page for anonymous tips called “Help Enforce the Texas Heartbeat Act.” The tip section asked for personal information as well as “information about potential violations of the Texas Heartbeat Act.”
GoDaddy notified the group’s IT department on Thursday that it had violated the terms of service. Texas Right to Life said that GoDaddy “neglected to specify how” it violated the terms.
GoDaddy told National Public Radio that the tip section violated the company’s policy on “collecting personally identifiable information about someone without the person’s consent.”
The pro-life group’s main website is not hosted by GoDaddy, Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, told CNA on Wednesday.
The whistleblower website was then reportedly registered with the host company Epik. A Sept. 6 Washington Post report noted that Texas Right to Life “agreed” to take its tips web page down, due to a violation of Epik’s terms of service. Epik confirmed to CNA that the website was removed due to a violation of its terms.
Schwartz told CNA, however, that Texas Right to Life did not agree to take the tips website down, and that Epik did not force the group to take the site down. Rather, Texas Right to Life was working to improve security before relaunching its whistleblower web page, she said.
“We haven’t put it back up yet by our own choice,” she added. “We’re working on extra security before putting it back up.”
Epik’s general counsel Daniel Prince told CNA on Wednesday that it will not serve Texas Right to Life if the group keeps its anonymous tips page active. Prince added that although the tips page violates Epik’s terms of service, the redirection to the Texas Right to Life homepage does not. As of Sept. 8, Texas Right to Life was still using Epik’s services.
Schwartz told CNA that Texas Right to Life was in talks with Epik, with the goal of relaunching with Epik as the domain registrar of the whistleblower website. She said the anonymous tips page will remain on the whistleblower website.
While Texas Right to Life is using Epik for the website’s domain registrar, the actual web host provider remains classified.