Reproductive rights group seeks to combine lawsuits against Texas physician who violated abortion law

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Dozens gathered over the weekend at the state Capitol to protest Texas’ controversial new law that is a near-total ban on abortion. (Credit: Michael Gonzalez/The Texas Tribune)

Dozens gathered over the weekend at the state Capitol to protest Texas’ controversial new law that is a near-total ban on abortion. (Credit: Michael Gonzalez/The Texas Tribune)

(KXAN) — The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to combine the multiple lawsuits filed against a Texas physician who violated Senate Bill 8. The lawsuit asked the district court to declare the new law unconstitutional.

The Texas law — known as “Texas Heartbeat Act” — bans all abortion services in the state once cardiac activity is detected, which is usually around six weeks into a pregnancy. It allows any private citizen to sue anyone who performs, aids or abets in an unlawful abortion.

The law constitutes at least a $10,000 award as well as the plaintiff’s legal fees for successful lawsuits. According to The Texas Tribune, only one plaintiff could collect the financial award. The defendant would only be fined once for the violation of SB8 per case, but would still have to pay legal fees in other ongoing lawsuits.

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, since he published an op-ed column in The Washington Post on Sept. 18 titled “Why I violated Texas’s extreme abortion ban.” The article detailed that Braid provided an abortion to a Texas woman whose pregnancy had progressed beyond the state’s limit after SB8 was signed into law.

“I have a duty of care to my patients and, in this instance, I provided that care in violation of SB8,” Braid said“Every day it is in effect, SB8 is harming the people of Texas and denying them their constitutional right to abortion, and it must be stopped.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization, asked the federal court to require all three SB8 plaintiffs to pursue their lawsuits against Braid in one proceeding.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the organization, said the goal of the new lawsuit is to stop vigilante plaintiffs and get the abortion law declared unconstitutional once and for all.

“[Braid] should never have had to put himself at legal risk to provide constitutionally-protected abortion care,” Northup said. “This legal limbo has gone on long enough and needs to be stopped.”

An Illinois resident and an Arkansas resident both filed state court lawsuits against Braid in San Antonio. The Texas Heartbeat Project filed a lawsuit in state court in Smith County, Texas. 

Oscar Stilley, one of the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against Braid, previously told KXAN he was happy to help Braid test the new law.

Other ongoing legal challenges to SB8 include the Justice Department suing the state of Texas, declaring SB8 was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution.”

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