Words by Robyn Cowie, Online Production Editor
A doctor in Texas has recently admitted to breaking the state’s new and deeply controversial law in regards to abortion and has been sued for it. This lawsuit is crucial in examining how lawful the recent statewide mandate on abortion shall be.
Doctor Alan Braid wrote in an article for the Washington Post, published on the 19th of September, that he had carried out a termination on a woman who was in the early stages of her pregnancy but “beyond the state’s new limit” of six weeks.
The piece went on to allow Braid to explain why he had disobeyed the new law on abortion: “… on the morning of Sept. 6, I provided an abortion to a woman who, though still in her first trimester, was beyond the state’s new limit. I acted 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”.
Former lawyers in Arkansas and Illinois filed lawsuits against him on the 20th of September and Braid can be sued for a minimum of $10,000.
Texas’ new abortion law, know as Law S.B. 8, states a ban on all abortions within the state after six weeks of pregnancy. This is expected to limit about 80% of abortion which would have been performed in the state. This law came into effect on the 1st of September 2021.
Another tangent to this particular law being passed was the fact that it stipulates that any individual – from Texas or elsewhere – has the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point or any other individual who seemingly helps someone access an abortion over time scale. However, it does not allow the women who get the procedure to be sued. Texas’ new law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.
Braid further stated, “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”.
The passing of Law S.B. 8 is the latest in a recent trend across various American states over the past few years, which has been slowly chipping away at abortion rights within the country. Both abortion providers and pro-choice campaigners alike are concerned that the new law is at odds with the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe vs Wade. A watershed moment for abortion rights in the United States, Roe vs Wade gave women the right to abort a pregnancy usually between 22 and 24 weeks, which is when the ruling stated a foetus is viable and able to survive outside the womb.
What makes so many people concerned is the current state of the U.S. Supreme Court and how it would rule on reproductive rights issues. Roe vs Wade was passed nearly half a century ago and the current climate of the court is by far the strongest since its passing, which could potentially revert the ruling.
The Texas case was quickly presented to the highest court in the U.S., in the hope that the court would block its passing. However, in an unsigned ruling backed by a narrow 5-4 majority, the court justices allowed the law to come into effect.The courts actions in regards to this particular case, it signals to many anti-abortion activists the courts supposed supportive position on abortion rights. This suggests that there is a functioning majority within the Supreme Court which, if a suitable case arose, would be able to scrap all the rights which the Roe ruling gave women nearly fifty years ago.
It is not yet known when this legal case against Braid shall be brought to court, but what is crucial about it is not the timescale of the case but how a state judge shall side, as this shall set a precedent for all other rulings with this new law. This particular ruling shall now give other states a clear view on how they too can restrict abortion, but shall also show those across the country and the world where America stands on reproductive rights issues.