Texas could owe pro-choice lawyers nearly $5 million over Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the wake of the reproductive rights movement’s glorious Supreme Court victory in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in June, things could potentially get even better. As you probably know, high-stakes litigation isn’t cheap, and the state of Texas could owe Whole Woman’s Health lawyers $4.5 million for their work in fighting Texas’ House Bill 2, passed in 2013.

House Bill 2 mandated all Texas facilities performing abortions to meet hospital-like standards and required doctors at those clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital less than 30 miles away, standards ruled unnecessary by medical experts, and which were solely put in place to close clinics that could not meet the requirements and misleadingly cast abortion as dangerous. Since the bill passed, 21 of Texas’ 40 abortion clinics closed, leaving just 19 across the whole state to serve its 5.4 million women of reproductive age. In a 5-3 ruling, SCOTUS deemed HB2 unconstitutional for placing undue burden on women seeking abortions, but the victory did not come without substantial financial cost.

Thus, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and local Austin attorneys who dedicated thousands of hours to researching and arguing the case filed a request Friday to recover fees accumulated during the more than two years of legal proceedings. The Texas Tribune notes that most of the requested fees ($2,754,503 to be exact) will go to CRR, with the rest of the requested $4.5 million rewarded to various law firms involved. Texas could also wind up additionally paying fees for any future legal work related to the Whole Woman’s Health case, because let’s be real, the anti-choice movement is relentless.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the CRR, said in a statement to The Texas Tribune: “Time and again, politicians in Texas have proven to be as reckless with taxpayer dollars as they are with the health and well-being of the people they serve. Our nonprofit attorneys and pro bono co-counsel dedicated thousands of hours to fighting Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional law.”

The roughly $4.5 million the state of Texas could end up paying would serve to compensate for all the money and time lost fighting a law that frankly never should have passed. But additionally, Texas really owes all its women of reproductive age, and it can start paying them back by investing in reproductive health clinics — you know, to compensate for halving the number of abortion clinics in the state from 2013 to 2015.

The state of Texas spent about $1 million in legal fees, all provided by taxpayers, to defend HB2 and throw its female citizens under the bus, The Texas Tribune reports. It has until Nov. 4 to respond to the CRR’s request.