The lawsuit claims that the legislative text of Senate Bill 8 intrudes on attorney-client privilege.
A Dallas attorney and women’s rights advocate has filed a lawsuit against Texas Senate Bill 8, better known as the “Heartbeat Bill.”
According to CBS-DFW, the lawsuit was filed in Dallas District Court by attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel.
In her complaint, Tuegel contends that Senate Bill 8, effective September 1st, will effectively prevent attorneys from advising clients who seek abortion services.
Tuegel says that that the bill’s broad language targets anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion,” and intrudes upon attorney-client privilege.
Furthermore, Tuegel observes that S.B. 8 makes no exception to the survivors of sexual assault, or the victims of incest.
“This bill,” Tuegel said, “is yet another desperate attempt by the state of Texas to undermine a women’s right to choose—this time by dismantling her legal support system.”
However, Tuegel has not directly challenged Texas’s legal condemnation of abortion. Instead, her complaint focuses on whether attorneys should be allowed to give advice about state law to their clients.
“At the heart of an attorney’s role is the ability to give candid, truthful advice, free of coercion and in the best interest of her client,” the suit says.
Instead, Tuegel alleges that S.B. 8 has “created a framework that pits attorneys against their own clients” by foisting harsh penalties and fines on lawyers who assist clients seeking abortions.
An attorney who aids an abortion could, for instance, be subjected to civil penalties of at least $10,000 per infraction.
CBS-DFW notes that Texas’s S.B. 8 is one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the United States. It bans most abortions from as early as six weeks, and allows almost anyone to file a civil lawsuit against an individual or organization suspected of aiding or abetting abortion.
However, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, along with many Republicans in the state congress, have framed the bill as among the nation’s strongest “pro-life” legislation. While the bill broadly prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, it was designed to curtail the procedure after the point a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected.
Similar to several other states, Texas has tried to pre-empt legal challenges by enacting the bill absent any criminal penalties. Instead, abortion providers and facilitators face civil fines, and can be sued by almost any member of the public.
Tuegel told SpectrumLocalNews.com that she has heard from multiple women concerned about S.B. 8’s potential complications.
“Women reached out to me who don’t become my clients, but who I would provide just some free legal advice to because of the nature of the work that we do,” Tuegel said. “And that is a pretty sacred blanket. The way that this bill is written, there is no exclusion for attorneys, and I think that was intentional. They could have written that in and they didn’t.
“I would hope and think that the courts are going see this and see a real red flag, and that, at a very bare minimum, lawyers have to be able to advise clients and communicate and provide resources, especially to sexual assault victims, which this bill does not exclude. It only says that the rapist, if proven beyond a reasonable doubt, can’t sue them,” Tuegel said.
CBS-DFW adds that the only exception to S.B. 8’s provisions are for women facing life-threatening medical emergencies.