The Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners filed a lawsuit yesterday defending a physician who violated the Texas law banning abortion care at approximately six weeks of pregnancy, before many know they’re pregnant. The ban has ended almost all abortion access in the state since it took effect on September 1.
The lawsuit, Braid v. Stilley, also asks the district court to declare the Texas law, known as S.B. 8, unconstitutional.
“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. Alan Braid, the physician who provided abortion care to a Texas woman who was in the first trimester of her pregnancy, but beyond the limit under the new law. “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,” added Dr. Braid.
The Texas law, designed by lawmakers to skirt judicial review, also incentivizes individuals to seek monetary penalties of at least $10,000 by suing anyone who provides an abortion or assists someone in obtaining one after the law’s limit.
The Center’s lawsuit representing Dr. Braid was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Dr. Braid was sued for violating the Texas ban by a resident of Illinois, a resident of Arkansas, and a resident of Texas. The Center has asked the court to rule that none of those individuals has a valid S.B. 8 claim against Dr. Braid because the law is unconstitutional.
“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, said in a statement after yesterday’s filing. “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.” Northup continued, “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.”
Dr. Braid is the owner and medical director of Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services in San Antonio and is a plaintiff in an earlier lawsuit, Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Jackson et al., filed July 13 by the Center and its partners to block the Texas law before it took effect. After he provided the abortion care to his patient on September 6, Dr. Braid wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post titled, “Why I violated Texas’s extreme abortion ban,” which was published on September 18.
The Center is partnering in the case with lawyers from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, Susman Godfrey LLP, and Massey & Gail LLP, who are providing their services pro bono.
First Pre-viability Abortion Ban to Take Effect Since Roe
The Texas law marks the first time since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that a ban on pre-viability abortion has been allowed to take effect. The law was enacted in direct violation of Roe’s core holding recognizing the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy prior to viability.
On September 1, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Center’s emergency request to block the law, allowing it to remain in effect. On September 23, the Center asked the Supreme Court to expedite review of the jurisdictional issues in the case, and that request is pending.
The U.S. Department of Justice has also sued Texas, arguing that the ban violates an individual’s constitutional right to an abortion before viability.
Neighboring Oklahoma Also Restricts Abortion Access
The Texas ban is forcing patients to travel to neighboring states to access abortion care. In Oklahoma, one clinic is reporting that two-thirds of the phone calls they receive are now from Texas patients. Oklahoma, though, has also enacted recent measures to restrict access to abortion.
Dr. Braid and his clinic, Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, are plaintiffs in another lawsuit, filed by the Center and its partners, to block five extreme Oklahoma state laws that ban and restrict abortion care and are due to take effect on November 1.
On October 4, a state court in the case denied in part a request for a temporary injunction against several of the state’s restrictions, including a law that would prohibit highly qualified providers from providing abortion care because they are not board-certified OB/GYNs—a law that would immediately disqualify over half of the abortion providers in Oklahoma—and two laws that contain a host of restrictions on medication abortion, including measures already struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and/or the United States Supreme Court.
At the same time, the state court agreed to block a total abortion ban, which declares that providing abortion at any stage in pregnancy qualifies as “unprofessional conduct” by physicians; and a law banning abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Read about the Oklahoma case here.
Read more about the Center’s efforts to block the Texas abortion ban:
- Braid v. Stilley: Complaint for Interpleader and Declaratory Judgment, U.S. District Court, 10.05.21
- Center Again Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court to Stop Texas Abortion Ban That Has Ended Most Access in the State, 09.23.21
- Texas Abortion Ban Update: DOJ Lawsuit, UN Condemnation, 09.16.21
- U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Texas Abortion Ban Ends Almost All Care in the State, 09.02.21