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Texas doctor says he violated the state's new law banning abortions after six weeks

“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,” Dr. Alan Braid said.
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A Texas doctor revealed Saturday that he recently performed an abortion in violation of the state’s new law that bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, arguing that he “had a duty of care to this patient” and that she had a “fundamental right” to an abortion.

The physician, Dr. Alan Braid, who provides abortion care in San Antonio, wrote in an op-ed published in The Washington Post that he performed an abortion Sept. 6 for a woman who, although she was still in her first trimester, was beyond the state’s new limit.

“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. “I have daughters, granddaughters, and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care.”

“I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972,” he said, before the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide.

The new law forbids abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually at around six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant. It allows no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The law also prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban. Instead, it allows individuals to sue abortion providers or anyone who may have helped someone get an abortion after the limit and to seek financial damages of at least $10,000 per defendant.

Braid, who has provided abortion care for over 40 years and operated clinics in Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma, said he was already challenging the strict law in court. His clinics are among the plaintiffs represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights in a federal lawsuit against the law, known as S.B. 8.

The U.S. Justice Department sued Texas this month, arguing that the law violates the Constitution. Last week, it also filed a motion asking a federal judge to temporarily block enforcement of the law. The judge scheduled a hearing for Oct. 1.

Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion rights group, said it was “aware of the situation.” Rebecca Parma, a senior legislative associate at the group, said that “we're cautious about the allegation, as it seems like another attempt to thwart the law,” and that “the pro-life movement is still dedicated to ensuring that the Texas Heartbeat Act is fully enforced.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, praised Braid, saying he “courageously stood up against this blatantly unconstitutional law.”

“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,” Northup said. “For more than two weeks this unconscionable law has been in effect, harming numerous Texans, and falling hardest on those struggling to make ends meet and people of color, who already face barriers to health care.”

In the op-ed, Braid said he started his obstetrics and gynecology residency at a San Antonio hospital in 1972, before Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortions.

“At the time, abortion was effectively illegal in Texas — unless a psychiatrist certified a woman was suicidal. If the woman had money, we’d refer her to clinics in Colorado, California or New York. The rest were on their own,” Braid said.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling, he said, “enabled me to do the job I was trained to do.” But this month “everything changed” when the law took effect, which “virtually banned any abortion beyond about the sixth week of pregnancy" and “shut down about 80 percent of the abortion services we provide.”

Braid added, “I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly.”