Sidley Austin has found itself the target of Texan Republican state legislators. The firm, which has offices in Houston and Dallas, has roughly 1,900 lawyers and reported a gross revenue of $2.8 billion in 2021, according to AmLaw data.
The Texas Republicans in question are planning to introduce a bill targeting specifically Sidley Austin and other law firms more generally that have made pledges to cover travel expenses for employees seeking abortions in states where the medical service will be unavailable.
The Texas Freedom Caucus said it plans to introduce legislation in the next session that imposes “additional civil and criminal sanctions on law firms that pay for abortions or abortion travel,” according to a letter sent to Sidley and unashamedly shared by the caucus on Twitter.
The legislation would bar employers from paying for elective abortions or reimbursing abortion-related expenses, regardless of where the abortion took place. It would also require disbarment of Texas attorneys who aid in the procurement of an abortion.
The caucus’ tweet went on: “A law firm in Texas pledged to reimburse the travel costs of employees who leave Texas to murder their unborn children. We are putting them and others on notice of the illegality and consequences of their actions under pre-Roe statutes.”
Following the Supreme Court’s decision last month that overturned the Roe v. Wade precedent, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department would protect the right to seek abortions across state lines.
Several major corporations and at least a quarter of the country’s 100 largest law firms, including Sidley, have said they will cover abortions and reproductive health travel costs for employees in states where new restrictions are going into effect.
Last year, Texas implemented a law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It also made it legal for citizens to sue those who aided others in receiving abortions.
In Texas, individuals can now sue those that “aid and abet” an abortion as early six weeks into a pregnancy, including “paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.” Many are worried that those provisions could apply to employers’ plans to cover abortion-related travel expenses.
Texas already had a law on the books before Roe v. Wade that essentially banned abortions. This law went back into effect immediately after the Supreme Court’s ruling and is now subject to litigation.