For Alan Braid it’s 1972 all over again and he can’t – won’t – go back. The Texas OB-GYN explains in a powerful opinion piece in The Washington Post why he agreed to perform an abortion on a 42-year-old woman whose pregnancy was beyond the six-week limit now mandated by the new Texas law that severely restricts women’s reproductive rights and runs counter to U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
“Newly graduated from the University of Texas medical school, I began my obstetrics and gynecology residency at a San Antonio hospital on July 1, 1972. “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. Some traveled across the border to Mexico.”
Braid writes that in 1972 he saw three teenagers die from illegal abortions. One, he says, he will never forget. “When she came into the ER, her vaginal cavity was packed with rags,” he recounts. “She died a few days later from massive organ failure, caused by a septic infection.”
The physician writes that in medical school in Texas, he was taught that abortion was an integral part of women’s health care. When the Supreme Court issued its ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973 and recognized abortion as a constitutional right, it enabled him to do the job he was trained to do. “For the past 45 years he has been a practicing OB-GYN and has conducted Pap smears, pelvic exams and pregnancy check-ups, delivered more than 10,000 babies and provided abortion care at clinics in Houston and San Antonio, and another in Oklahoma.
But this month, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that virtually bans any abortion beyond about the sixth week of pregnancy. Braid acknowledges that anyone who suspects he has violated the new law can sue him for at least $10,000. They could also sue anybody who helps a person obtain an abortion past the new limit, including, apparently, the driver who brings a patient to his clinic.Nonetheless, he writes, “That is why, 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.
“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 says, “Though we never ask why someone has come to our clinic, they often tell us. They’re finishing school or they already have three children, they’re in an abusive relationship, or it’s just not time. A majority are mothers. Most are between 18 and 30. Many are struggling financially — more than half qualify for some form of financial aid from us.”
“Several times a month,” he continues, “a woman confides that she is having the abortion because she has been raped. Sometimes, she reports it to the police; more often, she doesn’t.
“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. Represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, my clinics are among the plaintiffs in an ongoing federal lawsuit to stop S.B. 8.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”