Center for Reproductive Rights Files New Federal Lawsuit Challenging Unconstitutional Texas Abortion Ban
Lawsuit seeks to enjoin three complaints filed against a Texas physician who violated S.B. 8
10.05.2021 – (PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights announced today that it has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that seeks to consolidate multiple lawsuits filed against a Texas physician who violated S.B. 8 – the Texas law that bans all abortion services in the state after about six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant. The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to declare the new law unconstitutional.
Three Texas state court lawsuits have been filed against Dr. Alan Braid, the owner and medical director of Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services in San Antonio. On September 6, Dr. Braid provided abortion care to a Texas woman who was in the first trimester of her pregnancy, but beyond the limit under the new law, which punishes physicians and anyone else who “aids and abets” a patient in obtaining an abortion after about six weeks. The law awards a minimum $10,000 bounty to any private party who successfully sues under the law but only allows one person to ultimately claim the bounty.
Two of the three state court lawsuits were filed in San Antonio, one by a resident of Illinois, and the other by a resident of Arkansas. The third lawsuit was filed in Smith County, Texas by an entity calling itself the Texas Heartbeat Project based in Bellaire, Texas. Using a federal action called interpleader, the Center has asked the federal court to require all three S.B. 8 plaintiffs to pursue their lawsuits against Dr. Braid in one proceeding. The Center is supported in this filing by lawyers from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Susman Godfrey LLP, and Massey & Gail LLP, who are providing their services pro bono.
“Dr. Braid filed suit today to stop the vigilante plaintiffs and get this extreme abortion ban declared unconstitutional once and for all,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “He should never have had to put himself at legal risk to provide constitutionally protected abortion care. This legal limbo has gone on long enough and needs to be stopped. This draconian law harms Texans every day, disproportionally impacting communities that already face discriminatory obstacles in health care, especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color, undocumented immigrants, those living on low incomes, and those in rural areas.”
Approximately 85 to 90 percent of people who obtain abortion services in Texas are at least six weeks into pregnancy, resulting in this law decimating abortion access in the state.
“I have a duty of care to my patients and, in this instance, I provided that care in violation of S.B. 8,” said Dr. Braid. “Every day it is in effect, S.B. 8 is harming the people of Texas and denying them their constitutional right to abortion, and it must be stopped.”
OTHER ONGOING LEGAL CHALLENGES TO TEXAS S.B. 8
This lawsuit is not the only challenge to this unconstitutional law. On September 9, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the state of Texas over S.B. 8, alleging its unconstitutionality and seeking to block its enforcement. A preliminary injunction hearing in that case took place on Friday, October 1, and a decision is forthcoming.
On July 13, the Center, along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Lawyering Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Morrison & Foerster LLP, and Austin attorney Christen Mason Hebert, filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the Texas law on behalf of Texas abortion providers led by Whole Woman’s Health, doctors, clinic staff, abortion funds, support networks, and clergy members. After the district court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case on August 25, the defendants filed an immediate appeal. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then canceled the district court’s preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for August 30. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 order, declined to intervene and allowed the law to take effect. The appeal remains pending in the Fifth Circuit. The Center has filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court requesting the Court to hear the pending appeal on an expedited basis without waiting for further ruling from the Fifth Circuit.
About the Center for Reproductive Rights
The Center for Reproductive Rights is a global human rights organization of lawyers and advocates who ensure reproductive rights are protected in law as fundamental human rights for every person. Since its founding in 1992, the Center’s game-changing litigation, legal policy, and advocacy work across five continents has transformed how reproductive rights are understood by courts, governments, and human rights bodies. The Center has offices in New York, Washington, Bogota, Nairobi, and Geneva.
In the United States, the Center is currently litigating its third Supreme Court case in the last six years. The Center will argue Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2021) this term and previously won June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo (2020), which kept abortion clinics open in Louisiana, and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the landmark decision that ruled that Texas could not enact abortion restrictions that created an undue burden on patients seeking abortion care.
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