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

NOEL KING, HOST:

SB 8, the new law in Texas, allows citizens to sue anyone who, quote, "aids or abets" a person who's trying to get an abortion. An example of aiding or abetting - driving a woman to an abortion clinic, which means that drivers for rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber are at risk. Lyft says in a statement that it's creating a fund to cover all legal fees for its drivers who are sued under SB 8. John Zimmer is the president and a co-founder of Lyft, and he talked to our co-host A.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

So what drove your company's decision to offer these protections?

JOHN ZIMMER: No. 1, the law threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go. You know, if you imagine being a driver and not knowing if you're breaking the law or giving someone a ride - imagine if you're a woman in need of a health care appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you. Both of these situations are completely unacceptable. We do not appreciate how this law pits citizens against citizens, and we do not appreciate how this law limits a woman's right to choose.

MARTINEZ: Now, the lawsuit component of SB 8 exposes drivers. So, John, wondering if a lot of this move is driven by concerns about your bottom line. I mean, you need Lyft drivers in Texas. You need the existing ones not to walk away in fear.

ZIMMER: This decision was not made with the bottom line in mind. It was made based on our values, based on what we believe to be the very bad precedent that a law like this could set. This was based on the fact that decades of law have followed Roe v. Wade, and this threatens to undermine that. And that's how we made this decision.

MARTINEZ: But were you hearing at all from your drivers wondering, what does this mean for me? Am I in danger of getting sued?

ZIMMER: Absolutely. We did hear from our drivers with concerns, and that was one of the reasons why one of the main actions we took was to take that concern away by funding 100% of legal fees.

MARTINEZ: Is there anything else that Lyft is doing to exert its corporate leverage in this fight, say, when it comes to campaign donations or possibly supporting political challengers, ones that align with the things you mentioned in Lyft's statement?

ZIMMER: We will keep looking for opportunities to make a difference. We've done that throughout our history. You know, one of the ways that we felt like we could really make a difference here is that we did see a lot of silence around this from corporate America, and we wanted to raise our hand and say, this is not right to pit citizens against citizens. This is not right to move the ball on women's right to choose. And we're going to be the first or one of the first to take action and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

MARTINEZ: When you say you'll be looking around, will you be asking lawmakers that you have supported what their stance is on this and how they plan to act going forward?

ZIMMER: I'm sure that this will be one of the various issues that we ask any politicians that we work with about. You know, being in transportation, being in a category that creates many jobs, there are many issues that are important to us, that are important to society, and we want to hold ourselves and those that we work with accountable.

MARTINEZ: So if you hear back from someone that supports SB 8 and will continue to support SB 8, what will Lyft do in response?

ZIMMER: We will likely not support that individual.

MARTINEZ: Wondering, John, if there are any safeguards in place when it comes to Lyft's drivers who are in support of SB 8. Say they're anti-abortion, and they want to sue their passengers.

ZIMMER: Look; we can't solve everything about this law. We can solve the pieces that we can control. We can take a stand and encourage others to do the same. And my hope is that that leads to further action and potentially further legal challenges against this law, which we believe does not fit the rights to privacy and, frankly, the Constitution.

MARTINEZ: I ask that, John, only because I would assume that you would want your passengers, your customers, to feel confident that if they're going to a clinic for medical care, that they could confidently use the app to call a Lyft driver and that they would take them somewhere and not have to worry about any repercussions from that driver.

ZIMMER: Yeah. We made clear in the note that we sent to every driver on the platform that it is not their responsibility or, frankly, their business to be asking where a passenger is going. So we did make that clear as part of what we recommend and part of what we expect to see in the community.

MARTINEZ: John Zimmer is president and co-founder of Lyft. John, thank you very much.

ZIMMER: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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