HB 1515/ SB 8 Would Allow Anyone to Sue Texas Physicians for Providing Abortion Care or Referring People for Abortion Care
SB 8 Scheduled for House Floor Debate Wednesday
AUSTIN – Over 200 physicians including obstetrician gynecologists, family physicians, pediatricians, internists, emergency room physicians, psychiatrists, dermatologists, and radiologists have signed an open letter to House Speaker Dade Phelan and members of the Texas House expressing strong opposition to Senate Bill 8. SB 8 is scheduled to be considered by the full House this Wednesday, May 5.
These bills would ban abortion at six weeks gestation, before many people even know they are pregnant, and create an unprecedented cause of action for the enforcement of healthcare regulations. SB 8 would grant “any person,” including people living outside of Texas or people who don’t know the patient, to sue any Texas physician for providing abortion care or referring a person for abortion care.
The cause of action is so broad it would allow physicians, nurses, counselors, clinic staff, or family members of rape survivors to be sued by rapists and recover a minimum of $10,000 if successful. This is not healthcare, this is intentional shaming and targeting of people who need and provide safe, essential abortion care.
Bills like SB 8 create a chilling effect that might prevent physicians from providing information on all pregnancy options to patients out of fear of being sued. Texans and their healthcare providers deserve the protection of doctor and patient confidentiality while discussing medical decisions, not further interference by the state.
SB 8 is the first of its kind in the country and unique because of the private cause of action. Similar bills have been proposed in 12 other states, but none are currently in effect because they are so extreme. The language of SB 8 is written so broadly that the private cause of action could apply to all medical specialties, regardless of the type of medical care provided. This includes pediatrics, primary care, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, and internal medicine, to name just a few. It would impact all types of healthcare facilities, from private practices to community health centers and hospitals.
Several physicians who signed the open letter addressed to Speaker Phelan released the following statements in opposition to SB 8:
“As a family medicine physician who cares for people all over Texas, I am deeply disturbed and concerned about SB 8,” said Dr. Bhavik Kumar, MD, MPH, Physicians for Reproductive Health. “This bill would have devastating and detrimental impacts on the lives of many Texans. Decisions around pregnancy are deeply personal and belong to the person who is pregnant and whose health we are prioritizing. I vehemently oppose SB 8 and urge legislators to recognize the humanity of those who seek access to abortion care and those who support them through that process.”
“People need affordable access to full-spectrum pregnancy-related care,” said Dr. Bich-May Nguyen, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “Healthcare decisions are best left to patients, their families, and their doctors. Passing restrictions that are not based in science and do nothing to make this care safer only makes it harder for health professionals to provide this care and for patients to access it.”
“SB 8 would be catastrophic for both the patients I care for across Texas and for the dedicated physicians across our State,” said Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, a board-certified OB/GYN. “No matter your personal opinions on abortion, we can all agree that Texas physicians should be able to provide accurate, non-biased medical information without threats or harassment from out-of-state extremists. A person’s unique healthcare needs, not politicians in Austin, should determine the health information and care they receive. People seeking abortion care are your neighbors and so are the physicians who provide that care.”
“When it comes to healthcare decisions, including abortion care, providers should be able to provide their patients information about all options, so that they can choose for themselves what is best for them and their futures,” said Dr. Joe Nelson, a Texas family physician. “SB 8 is clearly designed to invite harassing and frivolous lawsuits against anyone willing to help someone with an unwanted pregnancy and would effectively stop all healthcare workers from being able to give our patients accurate information about their reproductive health care options. Restricting abortion does nothing but force patients to travel great distances to get the help they need if they are able to obtain the financial resources and social support to do so, which we know is already increasingly difficult as we continue to face the challenges of the pandemic.”
“I decided to become a provider of comprehensive reproductive health care because it is central to thriving communities,” said Dr. Elissa Serapio, an OBGYN in the Rio Grande Valley. “It is appalling to think that people can be denied safe, essential healthcare, like abortion care, by politicians who have no idea what Texans are facing on a daily basis. Abortion care is health care. It should not be used as a political pawn to remove basic autonomy from people making important decisions for their lives and families.”
“Bills like SB 8 are designed to directly challenge the U.S. Constitutional right to abortion. As physicians, we commit ourselves to provide the best possible care for our communities,” said Dr. Kiran Sidhu, MD, a family physician from El Paso. “SB 8 erodes trust between patients and physicians. These bills further vilify and stigmatize patients and physicians seeking to receive and provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Texans have the right to decide when to have a child and when not to have a child – decisions that should be reached without political intrusion. It’s time politicians step out of the exam room and help to pass legislation that makes it easier, not harder, for people to access essential healthcare.”
“The Texas Legislature has turned its collective back on helping Texans modernize their electric grid, take the federal money being offered to help pay for expansion of medical care, and instead focused on needlessly harming Texans,” said Dr. G. Sealy Massingill.
About Trust Respect Access The Trust Respect Access coalition envisions a Texas where everyone — regardless of their age, income, zip code, gender identity, immigration status, or whether they are incarcerated or detained — has access to all reproductive healthcare options.
The coalition includes ACLU of Texas, The Afiya Center, Avow, Counter Balance, Deeds Not Words, Fund Texas Choice, Jane’s Due Process, Lilith Fund, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Progress Texas, Texas Equal Access Fund, Texas Freedom Network, West Fund, Whole Woman’s Health, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Dr. Bhavik Kumar, and Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi.