Did Lyft Announce Legal Aid for Drivers Caught Up in Texas Abortion Ban?

Texas Senate Bill 8 allows private citizens to sue anyone obtaining an abortion, or assisting someone else to obtain one.

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Claim

In September 2021, the ride-sharing company Lyft expressed opposition to new abortion restrictions in Texas and announced a legal defense fund for affected drivers.

Origin

In September 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the implementation of a controversial Texas state law that effectively bans most abortions, prompting an outraged response among Democrats, pro-choice activists, celebrities, and some sectors of corporate America

Texas Senate Bill (S.B.) 8, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on May 19 and implemented on Sept. 1, bans any and all abortions after the “first detectable heartbeat” of a fetus, an event that can take place as early as six weeks into pregnancy. It also allows a private citizen to sue any woman who undergoes an abortion after this point, or anyone who assists her, regardless of whether the citizen has any personal connection to those individuals.

According to a widely shared Facebook post, one of the major U.S. companies to announce its opposition to the law was the ride-sharing app Lyft. On Sept. 4, Facebook user Izabella Kordalewski posted what appeared to be a screenshot of a letter from the company, addressed to “Lyft riders and drivers,” criticizing S.B. 8 as “incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy.”

The letter also promised to provide financial assistance to Lyft drivers who become caught up in the enforcement of the law by transporting women who are on their way to obtain an abortion, in potential violation of S.B. 8. Kordalewski introduced the letter by writing, “Dear friends. Here is a screenshot of an email I received from Lyft yesterday. Go make good choices.” The letter itself read as follows:

Dear Lyft Riders and Drivers,

A new Texas law, SB8, threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go – specifically, women exercising their right to choose and to access the healthcare they need.

We want to be clear: 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. 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.

This law is incompatible with people’s basic rights to privacy, our community guidelines, the spirit of rideshare, and our values as a company. We are taking action on two fronts:

  1. Lyft has created a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100% of legal fees for drivers sued under SB8 while driving on our platform. Riders and Drivers: Nothing about how you drive, ride or interact with each other should change.
  2. TX SB8 is an attack on women’s right to choose. Lyft is donating $1 million to Planned Parenthood to help ensure that transportation is never a barrier to healthcare access.

If you feel compelled to join us as an individual, you can make a donation here.

That letter was entirely authentic, so we are issuing a rating of “True.”

On Sept. 3, Lyft shared the letter on its own website, stipulating that it was signed by co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer, as well as the company’s general counsel, Kristin Sverchek. The link included in Kordalewski’s screenshot directed readers to a Planned Parenthood donation page. 


Sources:

Cole, Brendan. “Reese Witherspoon, Pink, Lead Celebrity Outrage over Texas Abortion Bill.” Newsweek, 4 Sept. 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/abortion-texas-six-weeks-witherspoon-planned-parenthood-petition-1626137.

“EXPLAINER: The Language, Reach of New Texas Abortion Law.” AP NEWS, 3 Sept. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/abortion-technology-health-texas-us-supreme-court-85f0a113234774771bb6c2a7e51391cc.

“Texas SB8 | 2021-2022 | 87th Legislature.” LegiScan, https://legiscan.com/TX/bill/SB8/2021. Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.

“Texas-Based Dating Apps Launch Funds to Help Women Affected By Abortion Ban.” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/news/2021/09/05/dating-apps-abortion-ban/. Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.

Untitled. https://www.lyft.com/blog/posts/defending-drivers-and-womens-access-to-healthcare. Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.