A federal court has denied a motion by Yelp Inc. to stop Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from penalizing the company for posting notices stating that pregnancy resource centers offer only limited medical services. Echoing a 1971 Supreme Court ruling, known as a “Younger abstention”, U.S. District Judge Trina Thompson ruled that federal courts must refrain from hearing civil claims brought by parties who are already dealing with related actions by state officials in state court.
Paxton, a Republican, sued Yelp in September 2023 for allegedly misleading consumers by posting notices on its business review website stating that crisis pregnancy centers provide limited medical services. On the other hand, Yelp defended its actions by arguing that its notices were truthful, not misleading and were covered by the First Amendment’s free speech protections.
Despite Yelp’s argument that Paxton filed his lawsuit in bad faith, Judge Thompson stated the company didn’t present substantial evidence to back this claim. She also referred to the ongoing state proceedings and the important state interest in protecting Texas consumers from ‘deceptive trade practices’ to explain her decision for abstention. Yelp’s notices began appearing on pregnancy resource centers’ pages in August 2022 before being modified in February 2023 to indicate that these centers do not offer abortions or refer to abortion providers.