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Lyft And Uber Will Pay Drivers' Legal Fees If They're Sued Under Texas Abortion Law

Sep 3, 2021
Originally published on September 6, 2021 4:56 pm

Ride-hailing apps Lyft and Uber said they will cover all the legal fees of any of their drivers who are sued under Texas's restrictive new abortion law.

The law, which went into effect this week, bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. It lets private citizens sue anyone who helps someone obtain an abortion, including by providing a ride to a clinic. That's raised concerns that ride-hailing drivers could be sued simply for transporting passengers.

"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 on Friday.

"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 healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable."

The statement was signed by Lyft CEO Logan Green, President John Zimmer and General Counsel Kristin Sverchek.

Green described the law on Twitter as "an attack on women's access to healthcare and on their right to choose."

He said Lyft is also donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood "to ensure that transportation is never a barrier to healthcare access."

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on Twitter that Uber would follow Lyft's lead.

"Team @Uber is in too and will cover legal fees in the same way. Thanks for the push," he wrote, quoting Green's announcement of Lyft's driver defense fund.

The Texas-based dating app Bumble said this week it's creating a fund to support reproductive rights and help people seeking abortions in the state. The CEO of Match, which owns dating apps including Tinder and is also based in Texas, said she would personally create a fund to help employees and their dependents who are affected by the law.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The restrictive new abortion law that went into effect last week in Texas lets private citizens sue anyone who helps someone obtain an abortion, including by providing financial assistance or transportation to a clinic. Now some businesses are preparing for the possible impact. NPR's tech correspondent Shannon Bond has more.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: People who successfully sue under the new Texas law can win thousands of dollars in damages from anyone involved in providing an abortion or even just driving someone to a clinic. Here's University of Texas law professor Elizabeth Sepper on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday.

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ELIZABETH SEPPER: It's $10,000 per person per abortion, so you could imagine a doctor, a nurse, a receptionist, a Uber driver. So the bounty adds up rather quickly.

BOND: That's alarming ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber and the people who drive for them Lyft's top lawyer Kristin Sverchek told CNN...

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KRISTIN SVERCHEK: We were also hearing from our drivers who are very concerned about what this means for them. Are they under some obligation to monitor where their riders are going and why?

BOND: Now Lyft says it will cover all legal fees for drivers if they're sued under the new Texas law.

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SVERCHEK: We both wanted to come out strongly in support of a woman's right to choose as well as make our drivers feel OK. We did not want them being in this untenable position of not knowing whether their behavior was OK or not.

BOND: Sverchek says Lyft will offer the same protection to its drivers in any state that passes a similar law. Rival Uber quickly followed, with CEO Dara Khosrowshahi saying his company would also cover drivers' legal fees. So far, there have not yet been any reports that drivers are being sued in Texas. Uber and Lyft, both based in San Francisco, are two of just a handful of companies to speak out so far about the Texas abortion ban. The dating app Bumble, which is headquartered in Austin, is creating a fund to support reproductive rights and help people seeking abortions. The Match Group, which owns Tinder, is also based in Texas. Its CEO is personally offering financial help for employees and their dependents who are affected by the law.

Shannon Bond, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.