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A Texas Doctor Says He Defied The Abortion Law, Risking Lawsuits

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021 in Austin.
Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021 in Austin.

Texas outlawed abortions past the six-week mark in a law that went into effect on Sept. 1. Dr. Alan Braid, a Texas physician, says he performed one anyway just a few days later.

In an opinion piece for The Washington Post on Saturday, Braid, who's been practicing for more than 40 years, explained his decision as a matter of "duty of care." The new law, known as S.B. 8, not only makes performing an abortion after about six weeks illegal, but makes it so that anyone who aids anyone else in getting one — by performing the procedure or even by giving them a ride to the clinic where they have the procedure done — runs the risk of being sued for at least $10,000.

Braid says he performed an abortion anyway on Sept. 6, on a patient who was still in her first trimester but further along than six weeks. That patient, he wrote, "has a fundamental right to receive this care."

"I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care," his piece concluded. "I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can't just sit back and watch us return to 1972," which was before the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

The Supreme Court let the Texas law stand earlier this month while leaving the door open for future legal challenges.

Braid could be sued under the new law

In accordance with the new law, any citizen could now sue Braid for performing the abortion and, if they win, could walk away with a minimum of $10,000. In Texas, the law allows private citizens to sue without having any connection to the abortion in question. A website set up by the anti-abortion-rights group Texas Right to Life also makes it easy to anonymously report those suspected of violating the ban.

If he does get sued, the abortion-rights advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights pledged to defend him. The group is already representing Braid's clinics in a separate lawsuit.

"Dr. Braid has courageously stood up against this blatantly unconstitutional law," Center for Reproductive Rights president and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement. "We stand ready to defend him against the vigilante lawsuits that S.B. 8 threatens to unleash against those providing or supporting access to constitutionally protected abortion care."

Texas Right to Life did not immediately respond to an email from NPR, but in statements to news outlets said it was "looking into this claim but we are dubious that this is just a legal stunt."

Clinics that Braid owns are co-plaintiffs along with other abortion providers, physicians, clergy members, and others in an ongoing lawsuit to block S.B. 8. The Justice Department has also sued the state of Texas over the ban, while abortion-rights supporters have flooded a Texas Right to Life website with false reports.

Abortion providers have been fearing the worst

Even before the law went into effect, many physicians were worried. Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, a Texas-based OB/GYN and abortion provider, described the bill as being "100% about putting fear in physicians and putting fear in abortion funds and intimidating us."

"This law threatens my livelihood," she told All Things Considered. "It threatens my ability to care for my family. It threatens my career simply for doing what I was trained to do right here in Texas."

Abortion providers in Texas are now turning patients away and directing them to obtain services in different states, something Braid said he has also had to do.

Historically, it isn't uncommon for abortion providers to be subject to harassment and violence. Harassment against abortion providers saw a spike in 2019, according to the National Abortion Federation. The FBI reported last year that violent threats against abortion providers had risen partly because of a "recent rise in state legislative activities related to abortion services and access."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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