The attorney behind Texas’s “bounty hunter” abortion ban, Senate Bill 8, has requested that several Texas abortion funds hand over information about every abortion they have “assisted or facilitated in any way” over the last two years.
“We are a majority person-of-color organization, both our staff and our board as well as our clients,” said Neesha Davé, executive director of the Lilith Fund, one of the abortion funds targeted by the requests. “It’s really important to us that we protect our whole operation from the racist criminal justice system.”
The requests, sent by attorney and anti-abortion crusader Jonathan Mitchell, seek the names of every donor to nine abortion funds in the state, as well as confidential patient information for every abortion with which the funds may have assisted since September 2021, when Texas’s abortion bounty-hunter law took effect. The information requested by Mitchell — including the names of the abortion providers, the city and state where each patient lived, and the personal information of nearly every individual who aided the patients in accessing abortion care — would identify thousands of people in Texas and across the country.
“This is a stunning escalation attacking the free speech and privacy rights of so many people,” Davé said in a statement. “It is objectively terrifying to think about what anti-abortion extremists want to do with this personal information and how low they are willing to go to get it. But let’s be clear: under no circumstances will we ever willingly hand over this personal information.”
The requests were made as part of an ongoing discovery process in a proactive lawsuit filed by a coalition of abortion funds and doctors against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other state officials challenging portions of Texas’s abortion ban.
“This is yet another scare tactic to try and threaten our community from providing the support and care their communities need,” Physicians for Reproductive Health said in a statement. “No one should be surveilled, threatened, or fear criminalization by the state because of their health care needs.”
The abortion funds have asked a federal court to grant an order that would keep them from having to turn over the confidential information to Mitchell.
“The First Amendment guarantees the right to associate, speak, and petition the government — it protects the very information Mitchell and his client wish to obtain,” the abortion funds said in a press release. “While it is not surprising that anti-abortion extremists would attempt to misuse the judicial system this way, it is chilling that they would take this step.”
However, even if the court grants the abortion funds’ order, reproductive justice advocates are concerned that the requests may have threatened the financial security of the groups, which are already struggling to raise enough money to meet Texans’ needs.
“It’s chilling [to] anybody who has even wanted to donate and making them think twice about whether their name might end up on some list,” Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director for If/When/How, told Jezebel. “If they can just sow a seed of doubt, then they can effectively cut people off from support.”
After Roe fell, abortion funds in Texas stopped funding abortion seekers’ out-of-state travel in fear of criminalization, but cautiously resumed funding abortion in spring 2023, after a judge ruled that members of groups that help people travel out of state for abortion care would most likely not face criminal prosecution.
“We’re tired. We’re mad. But we can face this knowing you’re with us & that we stand between them and you,” the Lilith Fund said on social media.
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