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Texas and Roe v. Wade: A Series

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posted on 2023-11-20, 19:59 authored by Abigail Ha

In 1970, Jane Roe (pseudonym for a Texas woman) filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, a district attorney of Dallas County, Texas challenging a Texas law that made abortion illegal except via a doctor’s order when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life. She argued that state laws infringed on her rights to privacy, protected by U.S. CONST. amend. 1, U.S. CONST. amend. IV, U.S. CONST. amend. V, U.S. CONST. amend. IX, and U.S. CONST. amend. XIV.

This ultimately became known as the landmark case Roe v. Wade (1973), which on a 7-2 decision ruled that a right to privacy that protects a woman’s choice whether or not to have am abortion is inherent in U.S. CONST amend. XIV§ 5.

Throughout the decades between then and now, this ruling was subject to controversy, and often used as a tug of war point of partisan issues. Being hailed by Democrats as a right of freedom, bodily autonomy, and gender equality while being vilified by Republicans, particularly evangelical Christians as violating a newborn’s right to life.

This divide is reflected with states having different laws regarding abortion, sorted by political ideology. One in particular was a Mississippi law, H.B. 1510, Gen. Assemb. (MS 2018) that banned abortion after 15 weeks. The constitutionality of this law was challenged in a Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), by which the Court ruled to uphold the law and overturn Roe v. Wade. and another case regarding reproductive rights Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The decisions were 6-3 to uphold the law and 5-4 to overturn the two cases. [1]

This ruling served as confirmation to primarily Republican states that it was now finally constitutional to pose more severe restrictions on abortions, and now do so leaving providers with no possible defense, and reinforce anti abortion sentiment. Among these states is Texas, where S.B. 8, (TX 2021) bans abortion after a detected heartbeat of the fetus which was a long controversial bill, but now capitulated its opponents.

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Texas took the chance to embark on a crackdown on its institutions to align with its conservative ideology. Most recently, Texas’ attorney general Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against Yelp. The lawsuit alleges that the platform's labeling of pregnancy crisis centers aiming to discourage women from having abortions violates Tex. Bus.& Com. Code § 17.46 (1973), which can result in penalties more than $1 million. In the meantime, Yelp has responded with a statement that its earlier labels were “truthful” but that its language for pregnancy crisis centers has changed. It now reads “This is a Crisis Pregnancy Center.” “Crisis Pregnancy Centers do not offer abortions or referrals to abortion providers.” [2]

It is also widely assumed that there is a political motive behind this, as Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppleman has in the past called for companies to “take action” to support employees and customers accessing abortion care. [3]

But, if we scrutinize Tex. Bus.& Com. Code § 17.46 (1973), which states that “false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce hereby declared unlawful”

it does not seem entirely clear on where this case stands on violating this statute. Crisis pregnancy centers are non-profit organizations for women who are seeking alternatives to abortion. Typically, these centers provide free pregnancy tests, consultations with a medical provider, ultrasounds, education, and moral support. If, by common knowledge these Crisis Pregnancy Centers are simply known as non-profit organizations aiding women with pregnancies, clearly distinguishing from abortion clinics which aim to terminate pregnancies altogether, this allegation appears to be rather dogmatic than productive as there does not seem to be sufficient discrepancy between the role and its label that would cause meaningful harm. Besides, because it is not such a conspicuously confusing label, the details on the general common sense of these mothers or other target audience members should be considered.

And given that there is a reasonable suspicion on the political motives behind this lawsuit and the current political climate of the deeply polarized US on reproductive rights, it would be difficult to evaluate this case without considering that factor.

A recent 2023 case involving a major corporation being accused of violating Tex. Bus.& Com. Code § 17.46 (1973) is Paxton’s allegations against Hyatt Hotels regarding the ‘true price of hotel rooms.’ [4] According to the Texas Attorney General database, Hyatt violated Texas consumer laws by marketing hotel rooms at prices that were not accurate to the public. The fees included not just daily room rates but also unavoidable ones such as resort fees, destination fees, and amenity fees regardless of whether or not the consumers used these services.

Additionally, in late 2022 Paxton filed a lawsuit against Google for “unlawfully capturing and using biometric data of millions of Texans without properly obtaining informed consent to do so.” [5]

The dramatic contrast between what Paxton’s recent history of lawsuits against major corporations involved; legitimate concerns on consumer transparency versus and user data privacy versus a dogmatic attack on semantics that happens to be regarding a punching bag issue between Democrats and Republicans, in addition to the Yelp CEO expressing support for accessing abortion care, should pose a question on whether or not this lawsuit is rather politically motivated.



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