Texas Uber Drivers Could Be Sued for $10,000 for Taking Women to Abortion Clinics

Uber drivers in the state of Texas could soon find themselves the subject of costly lawsuits after the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to grant an injunction against a restrictive new abortion law.

According to analysis of Senate Bill (SB) 8, those who drive women to abortion clinics in order to get illegal abortions could be sued for $10,000.

(SB) 8 effectively bans all abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy.

The law does not contain criminal penalties for illegal abortions but it empowers private individuals to enforce the regulations through lawsuits against doctors and anyone who "aids or abets" in procuring a "criminal abortion."

Someone who sues successfully under the new law will be rewarded at least $10,000 in statutory damages for each illegal abortion aided by the defendant.

One potential target of lawsuits could be the person who gives a woman a ride to an abortion clinic.

NBC News Justice Correspondent Julia Ainsley raised the issue of Uber drivers during an appearance on MSNBC on Wednesday.

"It even means you can sue an Uber driver who drives someone to an abortion clinic," Ainsley said.

"These are laws stricter than what we have in place for someone who would drive someone who is about to commit an act of terrorism to the place where they actually commit this act. It's a very strict law."

Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University (NYU), made the same point in comments to The New York Times.

"If the barista at Starbucks overhears you talking about your abortion, and it was performed after six weeks, that barista is authorized to sue the clinic where you obtained the abortion and to sue any other person who helped you, like the Uber driver who took you there," Murray said.

Under the law, the person who sues does not need to live in Texas or have any association with the woman who had the abortion. The woman herself cannot be sued but anyone who assisted her can be.

SB8 took effect at midnight on Tuesday after the Supreme Court failed to respond to an emergency application seeking a stay of the law. On Wednesday, the court voted 5-4 not to grant a stay, citing the fact that Texas state employees cannot enforce SB8.

In an unsigned opinion issued just before midnight on Thursday, the majority said the plaintiffs' application "presents complex and novel antecedent procedural questions" and they had not met their burden.

Chief Justice John Roberts said he was willing to grant a stay of the law and the court's three liberal justices also dissented, with Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor calling the majority's decision "stunning."

Newsweek has asked Uber for comment.

Taxi Parked Next to an Uber Billboard
A taxi stands parked next to a billboard advertisement for Uber, the U.S.-based ride-hailing, food delivery and bicycle-sharing company, on June 1, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Under a new Texas law, Uber drivers could be sued for driving women to abortion clinics to have a now-criminal abortion. Sean Gallup/Getty Images