Lyft, Uber to Defend Drivers Sued Under Texas Abortion Law

(Bloomberg) — Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. pledged to pay legal fees for drivers who are sued under Texas’s new restrictive abortion law, which threatens to hold anyone who helps a woman obtain the procedure legally liable.

Lyft co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Logan Green on Friday tweeted that the company was creating a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100% of legal fees incurred by drivers sued for transporting women to get abortions, and unveiled a $1 million donation to Planned Parenthood. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responded on Twitter, saying Uber will also cover legal fees, and thanked Green “for the push.”

“This is an attack on women’s access to health care and their right to choose,” Green wrote on Twitter. He said the Planned Parenthood donation would help ensure that “transportation is never a barrier to health care access” and invited other companies to do the same. 

Texas has banned abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, but has left it to private parties to sue to enforce the law. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week rejected, by a 5-4 vote, a request to put the law on hold while its constitutional issues are litigated. The measure, which went into effect Wednesday, makes anyone who helps a women get an abortion in the state potentially liable.

Green and Lyft General Counsel Kristin Sverchek, in a message posted on the company’s blog, said, “Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. This law is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy, our community guidelines, the spirit of rideshare, and our values as a company.”

Other companies have responded to developments in Texas. Texas Right to Life, a group that opposes abortion rights, set up a website encouraging people to “enforce” the legislation by sending anonymous tips or information about alleged violations of the act. GoDaddy Inc., which provides web-hosting services, said it informed Texas Right to Life on Thursday that it needs to find a new hosting provider within 24 hours because it violated the terms of service.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Friday that assets were in the process of being transferred to another provider and the group’s site would be restored Sunday or earlier.

“We will not be silenced,” she wrote in an email. “If anti-Lifers want to take our website down, we’ll put it back up.  We are not afraid of the mob. We will not back down.”

(Updates with comments from Texas group in the final two paragraphs.)

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