Texas doctor performs abortion in test of new restrictive law

Supporters of abortion rights participate in a rally on Sept 9, 2021, in Brooklyn, New York City. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Texas doctor has revealed that he performed an abortion on a woman more than six weeks pregnant in what could be a test case for the constitutionality of the state's new law restricting the procedure.

Alan Braid, in a column published in The Washington Post over the weekend, said he provided an abortion on September 6 to a woman who was still in her first trimester but was "beyond the state's new limit."

The "Texas Heartbeat Act," which took effect September 1, bans abortion once a heartbeat can be detected, which usually takes place at six weeks - before many women even know they are pregnant. It makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

"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," Braid, who has been practicing medicine for 50 years, wrote.

"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," he added.

In the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court guaranteed the right to an abortion so long as the fetus is not viable outside the womb, which is usually not until the 22nd to 24th week of pregnancy.

But the court, which was shifted to the right with the confirmation of three conservative justices nominated by Donald Trump, refused to block the Texas law from going into force.

The bill passed by Republican lawmakers in Texas, the country's second largest state, allows members of the public to sue doctors who perform abortions after six weeks or anyone who facilitates the procedure.

Abortion providers and others seeking to protect a woman's right to an abortion generally file suit against state prosecutors seeking to enforce restrictive abortion laws.

But Texas managed to avoid close judicial scrutiny by the Supreme Court because of the way the law was framed.

Braid's admission means that if he is prosecuted he could contest the constitutionality of the Texas law and force a court to rule on whether it violates Roe v. Wade.

The Justice Department has also filed suit against Texas, following through on a pledge by Democratic President Joe Biden to fight attempts by Republican-led states to restrict abortion.

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