A state district judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit against a Texas doctor who in 2021 publicly announced he had violated a controversial Texas abortion law.
This is the first and only case filed against a provider under Senate Bill 8 to be resolved by a court, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
SB 8 allows private citizens to sue any individual who helps someone get an abortion after the first six weeks of pregnancy and does not include exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The doctors who perform the abortion can also be sued under SB 8.
In a September 2021 op-ed in the Washington Post, San Antonio doctor Alan Braid wrote he performed an abortion in violation of SB 8 five days after the law went into effect. He was then sued in September by Felipe Gomez, a retired attorney in Illinois who is identified in court documents as a “pro-choice plaintiff.”
“I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested,” Braid said at the time.
Thursday, State District Judge Aaron Haas in Bexar County ruled from the bench that a person does not have legal standing to sue if they haven’t been directly affected or harmed by the abortion services provided.
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The ruling “sets an important precedent” for other courts in any future lawsuits filed under SB 8, Marc Hearron, Braid’s attorney and senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told reporters Thursday. But the Texas abortion ban remains in effect, and the case’s dismissal did not strike down the Texas law allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers.
In a statement following the ruling, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called it “a significant win against S.B. 8’s bounty-hunting scheme.”
“But this dismissal did not provide the opportunity to strike down S.B. 8 overall, and in the wake of the Dobbs decision, Texas is enforcing multiple abortion bans,” Northup said. “As a result, pregnant Texans with life-threatening obstetric emergencies are being turned away from hospitals. No one should have to be near death just to get the health care they need.”
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Gomez, who is representing himself in court, plans to appeal, he told the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Gomez is one of three plaintiffs who have sued Braid, but the other lawsuits have “fizzled out” and were never formally served, Hearron said.
After the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Texas began enforcing multiple abortion bans. Under current Texas law, it is a felony to perform an abortion at any point in a pregnancy, except to save the life of a pregnant patient or if the patient risks “substantial impairment” of a major bodily function. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
After Roe v. Wade was struck down, Braid closed his clinic in San Antonio, he said in a Thursday statement.
“When I provided my patient with the care she needed last year, I was doing my duty as a physician,” Braid said in the statement. “It is heartbreaking that Texans still can’t get essential health care in their home state and that providers are left afraid to do their jobs. Though we were forced to close our Texas clinic, I will continue serving patients across the region with the care they deserve at new clinics in Illinois and New Mexico.”