Lyft, Uber lash out at legal threat from strict Texas abortion law

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft say they will cover the legal fees of any driver who is sued under the new law prohibiting most abortions in Texas.

Companies to cover fees for any drivers sued for driving women to abortion clinics

Lyft and Uber say they will cover all legal fees for the ride-hail companies' drivers if they are sued under a new restrictive anti-abortion law in Texas for driving passengers to outlawed procedures. (Steven Senne/The Associated Press)

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft said Friday they will cover the legal fees of any driver who is sued under the new law prohibiting most abortions in Texas.

The Texas law bans abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and often before women know they're pregnant. Rather than be enforced by government authorities, the law gives citizens the right to file civil suits and collect damages against anyone aiding an abortion — including those who transport women to clinics.

San Francisco-based Lyft said it has created a fund to cover 100 per cent of the legal fees for drivers sued under the law while driving on its platform. Calling the Texas law "an attack on women's right to choose," Lyft also said it would donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood.

"We want to be clear: Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride," Lyft said in a statement.

WATCH | New Texas law makes most abortions illegal: 

New Texas law makes most abortions illegal

2 years ago
Duration 2:02
Featured VideoThe most restrictive abortion law in all of the U.S. is now in effect in Texas following inaction by the Supreme Court. The law bans any abortion after six weeks or after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is before many women know they’re pregnant.

"Similarly, riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a health-care appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law."

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responded to Lyft's statement in a tweet announcing a similar policy for its drivers.

"Drivers shouldn't be put at risk for getting people where they want to go," Khosrowshahi wrote. Uber is also headquartered in San Francisco.

The ban leaves enforcement up to individual citizens, enabling them to sue anyone who provides or "aids or abets" an abortion after six weeks. This potentially includes drivers who unknowingly take women to clinics for abortion procedures.

A judge on Friday temporarily shielded some Texas abortion clinics from being sued under the new law.

The temporary restraining order was issued by District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin in response to a Planned Parenthood request. Although the law remains in effect, the judge's order shields Planned Parenthood's clinics, specifically, from whistleblower lawsuits by the non-profit group Texas Right to Life, its legislative director and people working in concert with the group.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction request is scheduled for Sept. 13.

Earlier this week, the chief executive of Tinder-owner Match Group said she is setting up a fund to help any Texas-based employees who need to seek an abortion outside the state.

Rival dating app Bumble also criticized the law and announced on Instagram it will donate funds to six organizations that support women's reproductive rights.

Both dating companies are based in Texas and led by women.

Match Group said CEO Shar Dubey is creating the fund on her own and not through the company. She spoke out against the law in a memo to employees on Thursday.

"I immigrated to America from India over 25 years ago and I have to say, as a Texas resident, I am shocked that I now live in a state where women's reproductive laws are more regressive than most of the world, including India," Dubey said in the memo.

The Texas law, which took effect early Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency appeal from abortion providers, constitutes the biggest curb to the constitutional right to an abortion in decades. It does not make exceptions for rape or incest.

Website hosting service GoDaddy Inc. on Friday, meanwhile, shut down a Texas anti-abortion website that allowed people to report suspected abortions.

With files from Reuters