Lyft and Uber to cover drivers’ legal fees if they get sued for taking women to abortions in Texas


Lyft and Uber have vowed to cover 100 percent of their drivers’ legal fees if they get sued for transporting women to abortion appointments in Texas, after the restrictive ‘heartbeat’ law went into force this week. 

The ride-sharing giants both announced the creation of legal funds Friday with Lyft’s CEO Logan Green saying the new law ‘threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go – especially women exercising their right to choose.’ 

The conservative-heavy Supreme Court upheld Texas’ new abortion law Wednesday night, in a move that paved the way for the Lone Star State to enforce the strictest reproductive rights legislation in the country. 

The law, dubbed the Texas Heartbeat Act’, bans abortions from when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is typically after six weeks of pregnancy – before many women even know they are expecting.

The ban also does not make exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest, with the only exception being to save the life of the mother.

Under the law, private citizens – rather than state officials – can sue women who get abortions for $10,000. 

They can also sue anyone who helps the woman get an abortion including abortion providers and even Lyft or Uber workers who drive them to a clinic for the procedure. 

Lyft and Uber have vowed to cover 100 percent of their drivers' legal fees if they get sued for transporting women to abortion appointments in Texas

Lyft and Uber have vowed to cover 100 percent of their drivers’ legal fees if they get sued for transporting women to abortion appointments in Texas

Women protest at the Texas Capitol in Austin Wednesday as the restrictive 'heartbeat' law went into force. Under the law, private citizens can sue women who get abortions as well as anyone who helps them - including cab drivers taking them to a clinic

Women protest at the Texas Capitol in Austin Wednesday as the restrictive ‘heartbeat’ law went into force. Under the law, private citizens can sue women who get abortions as well as anyone who helps them – including cab drivers taking them to a clinic

Lyft was first to push back against the law Friday, with the company releasing a statement vowing to defend both its drivers and riders. 

‘A new Texas law, SB8, threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go — specifically, women exercising their right to choose and to access the healthcare they need,’ the statement read. 

‘We want to be clear: Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride. 

‘Similarly, riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable.’

The company blasted the law as ‘incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy’ and ‘an attack on women’s right to choose.’

In the statement, signed by Green, President John Zimmer and General Counsel Kristin Sverchek, Lyft said its new Driver Legal Defense Fund will cover 100 percent of legal fees for any of its drivers sued under the law. 

Lyft CEO Logan Green tweeted that the new law 'threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go - especially women exercising their right to choose'

Lyft CEO Logan Green tweeted that the new law ‘threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go – especially women exercising their right to choose’

Logan Green pictured. Lyft said its new Driver Legal Defense Fund will cover 100% of legal fees and it will also donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood

Logan Green pictured. Lyft said its new Driver Legal Defense Fund will cover 100% of legal fees and it will also donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood

It will also donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood to ‘help ensure that transportation is never a barrier to healthcare access’. 

Green tweeted about the move, adding Lyft ‘encourage[s] other companies to join us.’

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi quickly responded to his call to action, saying the ride-sharing app would join its competitor in covering drivers’ legal fees. 

‘Right on @logangreen – drivers shouldn’t be put at risk for getting people where they want to go,’ he tweeted.

‘Team @Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push.’

The commitment comes after Texas-based dating apps Bumble and Match launched relief funds this week for women seeking abortions in the state. 

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi quickly responded to his call to action, saying the ride-sharing app would join its competitor in covering drivers' legal fees

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi quickly responded to his call to action, saying the ride-sharing app would join its competitor in covering drivers’ legal fees

But, so far, these companies are in the minority with few big brands yet to take a stand against the new abortion law.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who recently moved from California to Texas, refused to be drawn into the debate Thursday.  

Governor Greg Abbott told CNBC Musk supported the state’s ‘social policies’ as insisted companies would not quit the state over the new law. 

Musk responded on Twitter, writing: ‘In general, I believe government should rarely impose its will upon the people, and, when doing so, should aspire to maximize their cumulative happiness.

‘That said, I would prefer to stay out of politics.’   

Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The law, dubbed the Texas Heartbeat Act', bans abortions from when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is typically after six weeks of pregnancy - before many women even know they are expecting

Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The law, dubbed the Texas Heartbeat Act’, bans abortions from when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is typically after six weeks of pregnancy – before many women even know they are expecting

Pro-choice supporters and abortion rights groups have condemned the new law, which they warn will disproportionately impact teenagers and people of color. 

Meanwhile, the state’s largest anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life says it has legal teams at the ready to bring lawsuits and launched a tips website for private citizens to ‘snitch’ on women who have abortions. 

On Friday, Planned Parenthood was handed a minor victory when a state judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Texas Right to Life from suing abortion providers and workers at Planned Parenthood clinics under the law. 

The abortion bill was signed into law in May by Abbott and took effect Wednesday.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan dissented. The other justices – all appointed by Republican presidents – allowed the law to stand. From left: Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Stephen Breyer, Amy Coney Barrett, and Sonia Sotomayor

University of Texas protesters rally at the Texas Capitol Wednesday to protest the abortion law

University of Texas protesters rally at the Texas Capitol Wednesday to protest the abortion law

By putting the onus on private citizens to enforce the ban, rather than state officials, the law is more difficult to contest through the courts. 

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 just before midnight that night in favor of upholding the law, denying a request from abortion providers to block it.  

Joe Biden slammed the law ‘un-American’ Friday, describing it as ‘a vigilante system.’

He said the law ‘violates’ Roe v. Wade – the landmark 1973 law that legalized abortion across the US.  

The Justice Department is now exploring ways to counter it and Democrat ‘Squad’ Rep. Rashida Tlaib introduced a bill to set an 18-year term limit on Supreme Court Justices. 

Roe v. Wade: The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade. The landmark ruling legalized abortion nationwide but divided public opinion and has been under attack ever since. 

The case was filed in 1971 by Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old living in Texas who was unmarried and seeking a termination of her unwanted pregnancy. 

Because of state legislation preventing abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk, she was unable to undergo the procedure in a safe and legal environment.

So McCorvey sued Henry Wade, the Dallas county district attorney, in 1970. The case went on to the Supreme Court, under the filing Roe vs Wade, to protect McCorvey’s privacy.

Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court handed down the watershed 7-2 decision that a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, including the choice to have an abortion, is protected under the 14th Amendment. 

In particular, that the Due Process Clause of the the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental ‘right to privacy’ that protects a woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

 …nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

The landmark ruling saw abortions decriminalized in 46 states, but under certain specific conditions which individual states could decide on. For example, states could decide whether abortions were allowed only during the first and second trimester but not the third (typically beyond 28 weeks). 

Impact 

Among pro-choice campaigners, the decision was hailed as a victory which would mean fewer women would become seriously – or even fatally – ill from abortions carried out by unqualified or unlicensed practitioners. Moreover, the freedom of choice was considered a significant step in the equality fight for women in the country. Victims of rape or incest would be able to have the pregnancy terminated and not feel coerced into motherhood.

However, pro-lifers contended it was tantamount to murder and that every life, no matter how it was conceived, is precious. Though the decision has never been overturned, anti-abortionists have prompted hundreds of states laws since then narrowing the scope of the ruling.

One such was the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2003, which banned a procedure used to perform second-trimester abortions.   

McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe

McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe)

Following the ruling, McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe. McCorvey became a leading, outspoken pro-abortion voice in American discourse, even working at a women’s clinic where abortions were performed.

However,  she performed an unlikely U-turn in 1995, becoming a born again Christian and began traveling the country speaking out against the procedure.

In 2003, a she filed a motion to overturn her original 1973 ruling with the U.S. district court in Dallas. The motion moved through the courts until it was ultimately denied by the Supreme Court in 2005.

McCorvey died at an assisted living home in Texas in February 2017, aged 69. 

‘The Heartbeat bill’

Multiple governors have signed legislation outlawing abortion if a doctor can detect a so-called ‘fetal heartbeat,’ part of a concerted effort to restrict abortion rights in states across the country.

Under the ban doctors will be prosecuted for flouting the rules.

Abortion-rights supporters see the ‘heartbeat bills’ as virtual bans because ‘fetal heartbeats’ can be detected as early as six weeks, when women may not be aware they are pregnant.

Anti-abortion campaigners have intensified their efforts since Donald Trump was elected president and appointed two conservative justices to the US Supreme Court, hopeful they can convince the right-leaning court to re-examine Roe v. Wade.

Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, and Louisiana have enacted ‘heartbeat laws’ recently, and Alabama passed an even more restrictive version in May, amounting to a near total ban on abortion from the moment of conception. Other states have similar legislation pending.

Similar laws has also been passed in Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa and Kentucky, though they have been blocked by courts from going into effect as legal challenges have been brought against them.

  



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