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Texas man tests out-of-state abortions by asking court to subpoena his ex – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

A Texas man has petitioned a court to authorize an obscure legal action to find out who allegedly helped his ex-partner obtain an abortion out of state.

As some states work to expand abortion access and others impose more restrictions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe V. Wade, anti-abortion activists have begun testing the boundaries of state bans in court. Abortion advocates call these legal actions a scare tactic and insist that crossing state lines to obtain an abortion remains legal.

Both sides agree that the Texas case could test the meaning of “leave it to the states,” a phrase that former President Donald Trump repeated during his campaign.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN TEXAS?

Documents related to this Texas petition have been sealed by the court for the woman’s safety, but according to The Washington Post, which first reported the legal action, the man’s attorney is Jonathan Mitchell, a former attorney general from Texas and architect of strict abortion in Texas. prohibit. The woman is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and attorneys at Arnold & Porter.

Her lawyers say the man has filed a Rule 202 request — a filing that usually precedes a lawsuit when illegal activity is suspected. If approved, the court may allow the man to request documents related to the alleged proceedings and order the woman and others accused of helping her to make a statement.

Texas’ abortion ban provides for enforcement either through a private civil lawsuit or under the state’s criminal statutes, which have been updated to ban nearly all abortions, carrying a maximum penalty of life in prison for anyone found responsible for helping a woman obtain one.

This is the first legal action they’ve seen to argue that women can’t leave Texas to get an abortion elsewhere, said Marc Hearron, a senior adviser at the center.

“It is legal to be involved in or assist someone in obtaining a legal abortion outside of Texas,” Hearron said. “There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Mitchell did not immediately respond to multiple calls from The Associated Press for comment.

“The limit on the ability to travel is a step further than I think we’ve ever seen anywhere,” said Michelle Simpson Tuegel, an attorney who specializes in women’s rights cases. “I pray that we do not live in a time when our high courts will say that our home countries can trap us if we are pregnant.”

THE STATE OF ACCESS TO INTERSTATE ABORTION

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ended the nation’s right to abortion two years ago, the question has arisen as to how states with bans could try to prevent their residents from having abortions in states where they are legal.

At least fourteen Democratic-controlled states have passed laws to protect providers and others who help people obtain abortions in their states. Some also protect people who prescribe abortion pills via telemedicine to people in states with bans.

Idaho has passed a ban on what it calls “abortion trafficking” aimed at preventing minors from being transported out of state for abortions without their parents’ consent, but enforcement has been stayed by a federal judge. Tennessee lawmakers passed a similar measure last month, but Republican Gov. Bill Lee has not yet signed it.

After Alabama’s attorney general said his office would “look into” groups that help women get abortions, the U.S. Department of Justice, an abortion fund and former providers asked a court to block such investigations. On Monday, a federal judge said the bulk of their lawsuit can move forward.

And four Texas counties have passed local measures, enforceable through lawsuits by private citizens, against using specific avenues to help people obtain an abortion.

TESTING THE BOUNDARIES OF THE STATES

Anti-abortion forces have turned to the courts to test the extent to which these restrictions can be enforced and who can be held responsible.

In a separate case in Galveston, Mitchell is also representing a Texas man who is suing three friends of his ex-wife, accusing them of wrongful death and seeking $1 million in damages for helping her get the pills she needed to to induce an abortion yourself. .

Abortion advocates say Mitchell’s lawsuits are intended as a scare tactic, insisting that crossing state lines for abortions remains legal.

John Seago, president of the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, said these lawsuits will help clarify how the laws will be enforced and who can be held accountable as states resolve abortion issues.

“At the very least, we should support every state to fully enforce its laws,” Seago said, arguing that other states cannot have the power to “sabotage” Texas laws.