DALLAS — The list of petitions for temporary restraining orders under Texas' new abortion law is growing on Elizabeth Myers' desk.
"I think people are, justifiably, really scared and nervous," Myers said.
Myers is one of the attorneys representing multiple social workers, abortion funds and clinics as they wait and hope for the law to be overturned.
"There's nothing to stop people from filing lawsuits right now, so people are trying to get ahead of that and seek out whatever protection they can," Myers said.
Elizabeth Graham, the vice president of Texas Right to Life, called the lawsuits "narrow". They only protect the specific plaintiffs from being sued by the specifically named defendants. Although the organization is named in the lawsuits, she said the group is unphased.
“Abortion advocates, regrettably, are just trying to throw something in the courts that will stick, that will derail the law," Graham said.
Here's what the law says.
Abortions in Texas are now illegal after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. That can happen at six weeks, sometimes earlier, and typically before a woman knows she's pregnant.
Under the law, private citizens who are not government officials are able to sue anyone they believe is assisting a woman get an illegal abortion, not the woman herself.
The law provides exemptions for some medical conditions, though it does not make any exceptions for rape or incest. The only provision it has for the latter is preventing a rapist, who would have had to been identified and proven to be a rapist, from suing for the illegal abortion performed on his victim.
Graham said the law was "carefully crafted", giving the enforcement power to private citizens, so that it would hold up in court. She said the tactic is a hopeful deterrent, as opposed to situation where people are throwing lawsuits around.
"We want the people in the abortion industries to stop providing these abortions," Graham said.
The private citizen neighborhood watch-like system, as well as the focus of legal action being on the people helping a woman get an abortion, as opposed to the woman herself, makes Texas' law unique. Many states have attempted to adopt similar abortion laws, but failed.
“This was great strategy…a winning strategy," Graham said. "I think other states will model this legislation."
Meanwhile, Myers agreed to the law was created with intentionality. She called it a fear tactic.
“It could be someone who's helping her financially," Myers said. "It could be someone who's giving her a ride. It could be a doctor telling her what her options are. It could literally be anybody.”
Myers said along with providers, funders and social workers feeling vulnerable, many lawyers will be hesitant to help serve as a defense. She said the lawsuits would be "frivolous".
Texas Right to Life maintains that the legal process for someone filing a complaint under the law would be the same as with any other issue. There would need to be credibility to the complaint.
“The judge will decide if this is a witch hunt or if this is really a criminal abortion," Graham said.
However, Myers is concerned about the financial impact and drain on resources it will be for individuals and organizations to continuously have to defend themselves.
"It doesn’t require the person to have any connection the woman who’s gotten the abortion," Myers said. “It literally allows anybody in the state of Texas to try to seek what is now a bounty of 10,000 dollars that’s been put on people who are helping people seek care.”
And women are still seeking that care.
In Houston, Dr. Bhabik Kumar has already turned patients away from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
“On Tuesday, before this law went into effect, we were here very late," Kumar said. "We were just trying to see as many people as we could.”
Kumar said a woman came in on Tuesday, not knowing she was as far along in her pregnancy as she was. He said that was common, even before the new law.
“For me, as a provider and for our staff, seeing somebody go through that in real time in front of you and ask you for help and not being able to do that is a very difficult thing," Kumar said.
He said his staff is already tired and got emotional when talking about how they move forward. He said, from what he understands, providers across the state plan to comply with the law for as long as it's in place.
He said all he and his team can do now is help women figure out the logistics of getting to other states for the procedure.
“Some people will be able to figure out the logistics and get there, but I know some people won’t," Kumar said.
Pro-choice groups are holding on to hope that the courts will intervene. There have been protests and outcries on social media describing the law as a "sad" situation for woman in Texas.
Meanwhile, Graham said Texas Right to Life is cautiously optimistic that the law will stick and is focused on ramping up efforts to provide resources for pregnant women to help them explore their options- options that all involve carrying the baby to full term.