In the abstract, allowing citizens to help enforce the law is nothing new. Many states have so-called “citizen suit” or “private attorney general” provisions that allow citizens to help enforce a range of laws and rules governing consumer and environmental protection, to government transparency and more. The federal government authorizes citizens to help bring certain fraud claims on behalf of the United States — and allows those citizens to share in any damages that the government receives. The critical point in both of those contexts is that citizens are supplementing government enforcement.
The Texas law, by contrast, leaves private enforcement as the only mechanism for enforcing the broad restrictions on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. It specifically precludes the state’s attorney general or any other state official from initiating enforcement. Under this new law, private enforcement supplants government enforcement rather than supplementing it. If this seems like a strange move, it is. And it appears to be a deeply cynical one, serving no purpose other than to make the abortion ban difficult to challenge in court.