Federal lawsuit seeks to consolidate challenges regarding Texas abortion ban

Federal lawsuit seeks to consolidate challenges regarding Texas abortion ban
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An abortion rights group filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday requesting that three lawsuits brought against a Texas doctor who performed an abortion in violation of the state’s new restrictive law be consolidated.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of Alan Braid, the Texas doctor who publicly revealed last month that he performed an abortion that was in breach of the state’s new restrictive abortion law. The recently enacted measure prohibits the medical procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, something that could occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

Braid said he performed the abortion because “I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care.”

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Three Texas state court lawsuits were filed against Braid in response to his disclosure: two were filed in San Antonio — one by a resident of Illinois and the other by a resident of Arkansas — and the third was filed in Smith County, Texas, by a group dubbed the Texas Heartbeat Project. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights is now requesting that the three lawsuits be consolidated — through the federal action called interpleader — so the three plaintiffs can pursue their legal action against Braid together.

“Dr. Braid filed suit today to stop the vigilante plaintiffs and get this extreme abortion ban declared unconstitutional once and for all,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“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,” she added.

Braid in a statement said he has a “duty of care to my patients,” adding that in this instance “I provided that care in violation of S.B. 8.”

“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,” he added.

One of the lawsuits in question was filed by Oscar Stilley, who requested last month that Braid pay $100,000 for violating the Texas law.

He also called for an injunction against Braid that would prohibit him from performing future abortions that violate the Texas law.

Stilley, Felipe N. Gomez and the Texas Heartbeat Project are all named as defendants in the interpleader.

Since going into effect early last month the Texas abortion law has become a topic of controversy in Washington and around the country, leaving a number of abortion advocates concerned that other states will follow the Lone Star State’s lead by enacting similar legislation

Thus far, politicians in Arkansas, South Dakota and Florida have said they will look into bringing similar laws to their states.

Worries deepened after the Supreme Court last month, after the law was enacted, denied an emergency request from abortion providers to block the law, 5 to 4. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the bench’s liberal justices.

The Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in a key abortion case this term, which looks at Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. The law poses a direct challenge to the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, which first identified a right to abortion.

The Hill reached out to Stilley for comment.