Abortion Decision’s Next Phase

Conservative state lawmakers sent a letter to the Sidley Austin law firm threatening to file legislation prohibiting companies from covering the cost of abortions or related travel expenses to other states.

The letter, signed by Texas Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mayes Middleton and 10 other legislators, including Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth, Rep. Matt Shaheen from Plano, and Brian Harrison of Waxahachie, was addressed to Yvette Ostolaza, of University Park.

Ostolaza chairs Sidley Austin’s management committee, one of the two top governing bodies for one of the largest U.S. law firms with offices worldwide.

Sidley Austin declined to comment for this story. 

Several large companies have pledged to pay for employees’ reproductive health costs following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, including Dallas-based Match Group and AT&T, among others, according to media reports. Dallas County district attorney John Creuzot also joined peers in other large urban areas in refusing to prosecute women seeking abortions in Dallas County.

“I want women across Texas, and especially here in Dallas County, to rest assured that my office will not stand in the way of them seeking the health care they need,” Creuzot wrote. “As we do every day, my office will continue to use discretion to pursue justice on behalf of all citizens of our Dallas County community.”

The letter from lawmakers doesn’t stop at threatening legislation to bar companies from paying for or reimbursing costs related to the reproductive healthcare support regardless of whether the abortion occurs in a state where the procedure is legal.

It also proposes:

Allowing district attorneys to prosecute abortion-related cases regardless of whether the residing district attorney chooses to indict;

Allowing private citizens to sue anyone who pays for an abortion or reimburses related costs on behalf of a Texas resident;

And requiring the State Bar of Texas to disbar any lawyer “furnishing the means for procuring an abortion knowing the purpose intended.”

It’s unclear whether the caucus has sent similar letters to other companies offering similar benefits.

It’s also not the first time these legislators have threatened CEOs that operate in Texas.

In May, lawmakers, including state Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, wrote a letter to Lyft CEO Logan Green. Green pledged on Twitter that the company would cover the travel costs for the procedure for employees if necessary, as well as the legal fees of any Lyft driver sued under Senate Bill 8. This Texas law empowers private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who assists in procuring an abortion.

“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,” that letter stated, as reported by the Texas Tribune.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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