A small town in Louisiana has passed a new ordinance that allows its residents to sue anyone who helps an individual get an abortion, similar to the Texas law that was passed and enforced last year.
The Pollock, Louisiana, ordinance, which passed through a 4-1 vote in the town council, bans abortion completely within the limits of the town. Even though there are no abortion clinics currently in Pollock, a town of fewer than five hundred people, the ordinance also bans the shipment of abortion medication to residents, and places severe penalties on anyone who helps an individual get an abortion. Private companies in the town are also prohibited from providing insurance to employees if the coverage they provide pays for abortion services.
The town council recognized that aspects of the ordinance cannot be enforced unless the Supreme Court rules to overturn Roe v. Wade later this year. Currently, only parts of the Pollock ordinance can be enforced through private action.
For instance, a resident of the town is allowed to sue another resident if they help someone get an abortion elsewhere — similar to the Texas law that passed last year, which the Supreme Court has allowed to remain in place while it is litigated in lower courts. Residents can sue others for $10,000 in statutory damages, as well as additional compensatory damages “if the plaintiff has suffered injury or harm from the defendant’s conduct,” including “emotional distress” that is the result of a person getting an abortion, the statute says.
The ordinance outlaws abortion at any stage of pregnancy. It makes exceptions for those who are faced with life-threatening pregnancies, but requires those individuals to provide evidence that they needed the procedure to avoid death.
Mayor Douglas Beavers has claimed that he believes he was chosen by God to enforce such a rule. But Councilwoman Cindy Dickey, the lone vote against the ordinance, cited her belief in God to justify her choice to oppose the measure.
Dickey is also supportive of measures to restrict abortion access. But “it’s between me and God,” she said regarding her “no” vote. “What God and I talk about, that is a complete separation of church and state. I think a lot of things in this rule are good, but the resolution goes way too far.”
Pollock is located in Grant Parish, a deep-red section of the state of Louisiana. Residents in that parish voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2020 presidential election, with 86.4 percent of voters casting a ballot for Trump and only 12.3 percent voting for Biden.
The move by Pollock officials to mimic the Texas-style law may indicate that such measures could pop up elsewhere on the municipal level. Even in states where lawmakers have passed legislation to protect abortion rights, jurisdictions within their borders could potentially seek to limit access for their residents, making it more difficult for individuals that are seeking out the procedure.