Reason Roundup

Anyone Who 'Aids or Abets' Abortion Could Be Sued Under New Texas 'Heartbeat Bill'

Plus: Death penalty proposed for Atlanta massage parlor shooter, judge tosses Google antitrust suit, and more...


Texas abortion bill includes civil suit provision. They say everything is bigger in Texas. This apparently includes attempts to thwart reproductive freedom. The state has now passed one of the most extreme anti-abortion bills that this country has seen.

The bill's main tacks are twofold. Like many recent measures passed by Republican-led legislatures—and later struck down in court—this one would ban abortion after the presence of a "fetal heartbeat." The term is typically used to refer to any embryonic cardiac activity—an electrical pulse that mimics a heartbeat even before an embryo has a heart—and can generally be detected about two weeks after pregnancy registers on a typical home test.

Where Texas takes things even further is by allowing almost anyone who thinks an abortion has taken place outside these parameters to sue—essentially creating pro-life "vigilantes," as Emily Shugerman at The Daily Beast puts it

The person suing does not have to have any connection to the parties allegedly involved, nor even live in Texas. They just can't be "an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity."

Nor must their target be limited to abortion providers. Anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion taking place—say, by driving someone to a clinic or helping someone find an abortion provider—can be sued (though a woman getting an abortion cannot). This includes anyone "paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise," the legislation specifically notes.

Amy Hagstrom Miller of Texas-based abortion clinic Whole Woman's Health told The Daily Beast, "It's unprecedented, there's no question. The idea that just anybody should be able to police a highly trained physician and their staff—that any Joe on the street can make that claim—is just totally shocking."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated he will sign the bill into law.


Should the Atlanta massage parlor murderer get the death penalty? MSNBC opinion columnist Chris Geidner argues no:

The desire of many prosecutors to seek harsh sentences is a well-documented problem. The practice can be coercive, forcing people to plead guilty in circumstances where they would ordinarily go to trial to take the most significant charges off the table. The practice has thrown fuel on the fire of mass incarceration, filling our prisons with an increasingly aging population.

But here, in a case where charges of hate-motivated violence are also at issue, the practice is particularly ill-suited: The death penalty in America is both historically and presently a biased system, and using that most extreme punishment to prosecute bias-motivated crime only serves to root that biased system more deeply in our lives.…

The March 16 spa shootings must be prosecuted, accountability for the killings must be sought, and the effect of bias in the attacks must be addressed. But using this case to further entrench the death penalty in our nation and in our lives does not — and cannot — advance those goals.


A win for Google in antitrust case filed by advertisers. A federal judge has dismissed an antitrust lawsuit brought by several businesses that used Google ads, while giving them until June 14 to amend the suit. From Reuters:

The ruling by District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose, California, marks one of the first major decisions in a spate of antitrust cases filed against Google over the last two years by users and rivals as well as the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general.

Labson Freeman said plaintiffs, including Hanson Law Firm and Prana Pets, that alleged Google abuses its dominance in digital advertising need to clarify which market they think it monopolizes.

"The Court is particularly concerned that Plaintiffs' market excludes social media display advertising and direct negotiations," she wrote.

The plaintiffs also need to better explain why Google's refusal to support rival systems that the advertisers rely upon is anticompetitive, because antitrust law does not require monopolists to help competitors survive, Labson Freeman said.


• In light of the new guidance, some states are lifting parts of their mask mandates. "Oregon and Washington are working quickly to update their guidance for businesses to lift masking and distancing requirements by verifying a person's vaccination status," reports KGW8. "The new guidance will not apply to schools yet."

• In Minnesota, "Gov. Tim Walz Thursday announced his statewide coronavirus mask mandate will end Friday, although, in line with CDC recommendations, the state is still recommending that only fully vaccinated people stop wearing them," according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

• "A new study finds that both legal and undocumented immigrants are more law-abiding than native-born U.S. citizens," Reason's Billy Binion reports.

• A "kidnapped baby" situation in Phoenix turns out to have been fabricated by people who wanted police to find their stolen truck.