Welcome to the post-Roe hellscape ushered in by Justice Alito and his merry band of nihilists, where a state court in Arizona allowed a man to open an estate and appoint himself personal representative for an embryo for the purpose of suing the doctors who provided his ex-wife with an abortion in 2018.
ProPublica’s Nicole Santa Cruz has an excellent piece on the case, made possible by a 2009 law empowering a pregnant person’s husband and parents to sue an abortion provider who fails to get “informed consent” from the patient. The details are predictably appalling, with the plaintiff dragging his former spouse into this nightmare against her will.
Mario Villegas, the ex-husband of the woman who sought the abortion five years ago, accompanied his then partner on the three medical appointments required for her to terminate the pregnancy. Nonetheless, he filed a wrongful death suit in 2020 against the clinic and doctors who provided the pills she took to end the pregnancy, alleging that they failed to get her informed consent as required by law.
The couple divorced in 2018, and his former spouse cited instability in their relationship as one of the reasons she sought the medication abortion. In depositions, she alleged that Villegas was emotionally abusive and controlling during the marriage, sometimes refusing to let her leave the house without him and creating fake social media profiles to monitor her online, even threatening to “blackmail” her if she filed for divorce during his failed campaign to get elected justice of the peace.
In 2019, Villegas found yet another means to immiserate his ex-wife after reading about the case of an Alabama man who got a probate court to appoint him personal representative and filed a wrongful death suit against the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville after his wife accessed her then-legal right to an abortion. That case was eventually dismissed, but Villegas contacted the lawyer who filed it, which is how he wound up connected with J. Stanley Martineau, the Arizona personal injury lawyer representing him in this case.
In the wrongful death claim, Martineau argued that the woman’s consent was invalidated because the doctors didn’t follow the informed consent statute. Although the woman signed four consent documents, the suit claims that “evidence shows that in her rush to maximize profits,” the clinic’s owner, Dr. Gabrielle Goodrick, “cut corners.” Martineau alleged that Goodrick and another doctor didn’t inform the woman of the loss of “maternal-fetal” attachment, about the alternatives to abortion or that if not for the abortion, the embryo would likely have been “delivered to term,” among other violations.
The ex-wife has refuted this claim in her testimony. Nonetheless, Gila County Superior Court Judge Bryan B. Chambers refused to dismiss the case and allowed Villegas to open an estate for the “Baby Villegas,” which he has decided was a girl based on absolutely no information at all.
Abortion is effectively illegal now in Arizona thanks to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Nonetheless, James Bopp Jr., the Indiana lawyer who has championed the anti-abortion cause for decades and recently opined that a 10-year-old rape victim should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term because “we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child,” defended the necessity of civil suits against doctors.
“The civil remedies follow what the criminal law makes unlawful,” he insisted, warning darkly of “radical Democrat” prosecutors who refuse to enforce state abortion bans. And if, as is apparently the case here, an ex-husband is using the law to punish a doctor for lawful conduct, with the added benefit of harming his ex-partner, well, so be it.
“He has no desire to harass” his ex-wife, Martineau told ProPublica, insisting that his client was motivated neither by revenge nor greed. “All he wants to do is make sure it doesn’t happen to another father.”
Let us all retire to our fainting couches as we recover from the shock that a law which was supposedly passed to protect women from rapacious doctors is now being weaponized by a man to sue a female doctor against the wishes of her female patient.
Her Ex-Husband Is Suing a Clinic Over the Abortion She Had Four Years Ago [ProPublica]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.
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