Texas Republicans warn Dallas law firm that paying for abortion trip could be illegal

A group of conservative Texas lawmakers are warning Dallas law firm Sidley Austin, doubling down on GOP proposals to ban companies from paying employees to travel to other states for abortions.

Representative Mayes Middleton, chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, sent a letter to Sidley Austin’s executive committee chief, claiming the company was violating Texas law by reimbursing employees for travel expenses to leave the state to relocate. abort.

The Republican from Wallisville, east of Houston, says in the letter that the company’s actions are illegal under laws enacted in 1925. The Texas Supreme Court ruled last week that those laws could be civilly enforced against abortion providers after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last month.

Sidley Austin public relations manager Matt Messinger did not respond to requests for comment. The Chicago-based firm has offices around the world and employs more than 100 attorneys in Dallas.

The letter outlines bills the Freedom Caucus, a group of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, plans to introduce in the 2023 legislative session to ban companies from funding abortion-related travel expenses. .

According to the letter, the legislation:

  • Prohibit any Texas employer from paying for elective abortions or reimbursing employee travel expenses
  • Allow individuals to sue anyone suspected of paying for an abortion
  • Require the state bar to disbar lawyers who violate abortion laws
  • Authorize any district attorney to prosecute abortion-related offenses in areas where the local district attorney chooses not to prosecute them

Several Texas district attorneys, including John Creuzot of Dallas County, have said they will not prosecute abortion providers.

The letter is similar to one Rep. Briscoe Cain, a member of the Deer Park Freedom Caucus, and 13 other Republicans sent ride-sharing company Lyft in May.

The San Francisco-based company said it would create a program to cover the cost of travel for Oklahoma or Texas residents traveling to other states for an abortion. The company has also pledged to cover the legal costs of drivers sued for transporting someone to an abortion and the costs of employees who must travel more than 100 miles to get to an abortion provider in the network.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has expressed interest in using existing state laws to impose $100,000 fines on companies that reimburse employees who travel for abortions.

Several other companies with offices in the Dallas area said they would provide employees with assistance in traveling to other states for abortions, including JP Morgan Chase & Co, Match Group and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Other major companies, including Amazon and Starbucks, also plan to provide employees with travel assistance for abortions.

Employers who choose to make these benefits available face legal issues — in states that ban nearly all abortions, including Texas, they could be held liable for aiding and abetting abortions.

Dallas attorney Rogge Dunn said nothing would stop the legislature from making it a crime to pay for an abortion in another state.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, nearly all abortions are illegal in nine states. Several other states have bans that are being challenged in court or will soon go into effect.