Judge Dismisses Texas’ First Abortion ‘Bounty Hunter’ Case

A Texas judge dismisses the first case challenging the 'bounty hunter' abortion law. The ruling Judge Aaron Haas’ ruling sets an important precedent for Texas citizens, other courts, and any future lawsuits filed under Senate Bill 8.

A Texas judge dismissed a case Thursday regarding the Senate Bill 8 "bounty hunter" law.

The judge cited the plaintiff’s lack of proof of injury, as required by the state constitution, which allows people to sue for $10,000 in damages over any illegal abortion they discover.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, this is the first and only complaint filed against a provider under Senate Bill 8.

Bexar County Judge Aaron Haas heard a case filed by Chicago resident Felipe Gomez against San Antonio resident Dr. Alan Braid, who admitted in a Washington Post op-ed that he violated Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) after it took effect in September 2021.

Senate Bill 8 states that abortions are illegal after six weeks of pregnancy, though virtually all Texas abortions were banned after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.

SB 8 makes an exception for abortions when a pregnant person’s life is threatened. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Violations still stand for anyone who provides the procedure or assists someone in getting an abortion, the first of which is punishable by up to life in prison.

The law also says that all bans on abortion can only be enforced if private individuals file lawsuits. Conservative legal experts praised the law's unique wording, which gives citizens, not the government, the power to enforce abortion rights, which helps counter costly lawsuits against the government.

Gomez’s case was dismissed because the judge decided that more was needed to convict the admittedly guilty party. This is due to the SB 8 requirements for proof of injury as grounds to file a suit.

Gomez admitted having no prior connection to Dr. Braid before filing suit. Gomez told Chicago Tribune, “I don’t have a difference with the defendant, per se. The difference is with the writer of the law.”

The disbarred lawyer further explained his frustration with SB 8 in his Chicago Tribune interview, “Part of my focus on this is the dichotomy between a government saying you can’t force people to get a shot or wear a mask and at the same time, trying to tell women whether or not they can or can’t get an abortion. To me, it’s inconsistent,” Gomez said.

The ruling on Thursday, December 8th, does not overturn SB 8, or alter any of the abortion laws currently in effect in Texas.

Judge Haas’ ruling sets an important precedent for other courts in any future lawsuits filed under SB 8.

The president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Nancy Northup, calls the ruling “a significant win against SB 8’s bounty-hunting scheme."

Senior Council of Center for Reproductive Rights, Marc Hearron, who was part of Dr. Braid’s legal team, stated:

It [Gomez’s suit] doesn’t necessarily stop other people from filing SB 8 lawsuits. What we expect is other courts, following this judge’s lead, would say if you weren’t injured, if you’re just a stranger trying to enforce SB 8, courts are going to reject your claims because you don’t have standing.

Dr. Braid further explained his reason for violating Senate Bill 8 in a statement,

"When I provided my patient with the care she needed last year, I was doing my duty as a physician. It is heartbreaking that Texans still can’t get essential health care in their home state and that providers are left afraid to do their jobs."

Gomez is one of three plaintiffs who have sued Dr. Braid, but the other lawsuits were never formally served.

Dr. Braid closed his San Antonio practice when Roe v. Wade was overturned. He has since opened other clinics in Illinois and New Mexico.

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