Could registrars get sued under new Texas abortion law? | Domain Incite
Does the controversial new Texas state legislation effectively banning most abortions pose legal risks for domain name registries and registrars?
The so-called Texas Heartbeat Act, or SB 8, came into effect at the start of the month. It bans abortions in Texas when doctors can detect a heartbeat in the fetus, which is usually about six weeks after conception, when most women don’t know they’re pregnant.
In an apparent attempt to circumvent the US Supreme Court’s oversight, the enforcement of the law is left to civil actions — the cops won’t come to get you, but any US citizen will be allowed to file civil suits with a guaranteed payout of at least $10,000 if they win and no risk of paying court costs if they lose.
The ban extends not only to doctors who perform the procedure, but also those who “aid and abet”.
This part of the law has been written in such a way that it’s been broadly interpreted as even opening up taxi drivers who transport patients to abortion clinics to possible liability.
Taxi service giants Uber and Lyft have both already announced they will cover the costs of any legal representation their contractors need.
So if taxi drivers can get sued, why not also registrars and hosting companies? Clinics, counselling services and the like all need web sites, and web sites need domains.
It might be a stretch, and the law is worded in such a way that could give registrars a defense, saying liability is restricted to those who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion”.
“Knowingly” is a key word. Taxi drivers dropping off a woman at a clinic know where they are driving. Registrars and hosting companies typically don’t know what is being hosted on their servers.
But what if they are told about pro-abortion content on their services, accompanied by a threat of litigation?
It seems that so far the registrar industry, even one company headed by a right-wing religious individual, are effectively, if not vocally, on the pro-choice side of the debate.
A “whistleblower” web site, run by Texas Right to Life at prolifewhistleblower.com, that was inviting users to essentially “doxx” abortion providers has been kicked off GoDaddy for violating its privacy rules, and even right-leaning Epik has asked the registrant to leave on similar grounds.