I hate to be an alarmist, but we live in a time and a place where stuff like this has to be taken seriously.
A proposed state law in Texas would force Internet service providers to block websites containing information on how to obtain an abortion or abortion pill. Republican lawmaker Steve Toth, a member of the state House of Representatives, introduced the bill last week.
Texas already has several laws that heavily restrict access to abortion, but the new proposal is notable for its attempt to control how ISPs provide access to the Web. “Each Internet service provider that provides Internet services in this state shall make every reasonable and technologically feasible effort to block Internet access to information or material intended to assist or facilitate efforts to obtain an elective abortion or an abortion-inducing drug,” the bill says.
The bill lists six websites that would have to be blocked: aidaccess.org, heyjane.co, plancpills.org, mychoix.co, justthepill.com, and carafem.org. ISPs would also have to block any website or online platform “operated by or on behalf of an abortion provider or abortion fund” and any website or platform used to download software “that is designed to assist or facilitate efforts to obtain an elective abortion or an abortion-inducing drug.”
Finally, the bill would force ISPs to block any website or platform “that allows or enables those who provide or aid or abet elective abortions, or those who manufacture, mail, distribute, transport, or provide abortion-inducing drugs, to collect money, digital currency, resources, or any other thing of value.”
People who become aware of websites containing prohibited abortion information may notify an ISP “and request that the provider block access to the information or material in accordance with that section,” the bill says.
Toth’s proposal isn’t just aimed at ISPs. Individuals in Texas would be prohibited from making or hosting a website or platform “that assists or facilitates a person’s effort in obtaining an abortion-inducing drug,” for example.
More broadly, the bill would establish “civil liability for distribution of abortion-inducing drugs.” It attempts to extend the law’s reach outside the Texas borders, saying “the law of this state applies to the use of an abortion-inducing drug by a resident of this state, regardless of where the use of the drug occurs.” Women who get abortions would not be held liable, as the bill targets distribution instead.
The bill would create a private civil right of action that would let individuals sue people or organizations that violate the proposed law. The private right of action would include letting Texans sue any interactive computer service that provides “information or material that assists or facilitates efforts to obtain elective abortions or abortion-inducing drugs.”
While the bill would make it a criminal offense to pay for the costs of an elective abortion or to destroy evidence of an elective abortion, it mostly limits enforcement to civil lawsuits in other circumstances. It specifies that no state or municipal official can take action against ISPs, interactive computer services, or others who violate specific sections of the law.
It’s hard to know even where to begin with this kind of malevolence, but one must note the vigilante bounty hunter aspect of it, which thanks to the cowardly SCOTUS blessing of SB8 means it will be used as a get-out-of-being-sued card for this kind of legislation for the foreseeable future. As I said, I don’t want to be an alarmist, and at this time I don’t think this bill has any real chance of becoming law. That’s not the same as having zero chance, and if we’ve learned one thing over the past 20 or so years with the Legislature, it’s that what is now fringy whackjob stuff may tomorrow be one of Dan Patrick’s legislative priorities. The mark of a true zealot is that they never give up, and Steve Toth is a true zealot. The answer to this is the same answer I’ve been giving for every other piece of crap that has been thrown at us lately, which is that we need to elect more Democrats. I wish there were an easier way, but there isn’t. Add this to the ever-increasing list of reasons why.
And because I feel the need to clear some tabs, here’s some further reading on related matters, if you want to ruin your weekend:
We know that support for abortion rights is on the rise, but that only matters if people vote on it. It’s all of our job to make sure everyone knows how out of touch with public opinion he Republicans are and what they are trying to do. They’re not going to stop, so they have to be stopped.