Several Texas Republicans sent Sidley a letter Thursday warning the company that paying their employees’ abortion costs could subject them to criminal penalties.
“It has come to our attention that Sidley Austin has decided to reimburse the travel expenses of employees who leave Texas to murder their unborn children,” the Texas Freedom Caucus wrote at Sidley’s Dallas branch.
“It also appears that Sidley was complicit in illegal abortions performed in Texas before and after the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392. We are writing to inform you of the consequences you and your colleagues will face for these actions.
The Texas Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative members of the Texas House, observes in the letter that Texas never repealed the abortion ban once deemed unconstitutional in Roe vs. Wade. Once roe deer was overturned, the old laws took effect again, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
These statutes make it a crime to attempt, perform or provide the means to procure an elective abortion.
Additionally, a state law passed last year that prohibits the abortion of unborn children with a detectable heartbeat also prohibits paying for such abortions.
Caucus members claim Sidley may have paid for abortion pills for Texas employees in addition to covering travel costs for out-of-state abortions, violating both the former abortion ban and the Texas Heartbeat Act.
A partner at the Dallas branch could not be reached to confirm that the company reimburses employee travel expenses for abortions.
Sidley is the latest company to receive a letter from members of the Freedom Caucus warning of criminal penalties for assisted abortion. Even before roe deer was overturned last month, state officials Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) and others warned companies like Citibank that district attorneys could legally pursue efforts to to pay for abortions without infringing roe deer.
Since Democratic urban district attorneys have promised not to prosecute abortion crimes, Cain and other members of the Freedom Caucus also promised in these letters to introduce legislation that will allow Texas district attorneys to prosecute abortion crimes wherever they occur.
However, as evidenced by their letter to Sidney, the Freedom Caucus has developed this basic idea over time.
Their letter to Sidley proposes an additional new threat: legislation that would require the Texas State Bar to disbar any attorney who violates Texas abortion laws.
Additionally, the caucus promises in Sidley’s letter to introduce a bill that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who pays for an elective abortion, an idea Cain did not propose in his letter to Citibank. This would effectively apply an existing provision of the Texas Heartbeat Act to the entire pregnancy from conception, not just from the development of a fetal heartbeat.
Since the Legislature only meets in odd years, Cain and other lawmakers will have to wait months before introducing bills.
In the meantime, their strategy can continue to evolve.