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Justice with Jessica: Abortion rights activists could face lawsuits from other states

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Posted at 6:31 AM, Jul 01, 2022

DENVER — Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, many Coloradans have vowed to support people in other states who are seeking abortions, but it's raising questions on whether it could lead to a lawsuit.

Some activists may find themselves facing lawsuits due to aiding and abetting laws in some anti-abortion states. Aiding and abetting laws allow for people in anti-abortion states to sue people who facilitate abortions in states where they are unlawful.

Texas and Oklahoma have aiding and abetting laws, and lawmakers in more than a dozen other states have attempted to pass similar laws.

Now that Roe has been overturned, some legal scholars believe more aiding and abetting laws will go into effect across the country. The situation is causing some activists, like Attorney Kiki Council of The Forefront Project, to wonder if a lawsuit will be filed against them.

“What I do on a day-to-day basis at The Forefront Project is help groups do advocacy in a [501](c)(3) compliant way,” she said.

She said aiding and abetting laws are generally so broad, it’s difficult to know if her work is violating them.

“I have no idea,” Council said.

Justice with Jessica: Abortion rights activists could face lawsuits from other states

On Sept. 1, 2021, the Texas Heartbeat Act became law.

“Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on the day he signed the bill into law. “In Texas, we want to save those lives.”

The Texas law allows members of the public to sue anyone who performs or facilitates an illegal abortion for a minimum of $10,000, plus court and attorney’s fees. In that state, facilitating includes knowingly paying for or reimbursing the cost of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.

Council worries that violations could also include offering transportation or legal help, but she’s not letting the risk stop her.

“It's worth risking it all,” she said. “At the end of the day, when I chose to go into this work full time, I went in fully knowing the risks, again, knowing that abortion is dangerous work. People have died to maintain the right to seek an abortion in America, and knowing that it's inherently risky, getting sued... it seems like small potatoes compared to the actual physical harm that I might be in for doing this work.”

Last year, ride sharing services Lyft and Uber offered to cover 100% of legal costs for drivers who are sued under the Texas law. The aiding and abetting laws in Texas and Oklahoma only apply within the two states — not if someone travels out of state.