Ex-Husband's Lawsuit Seen as New Front in Abortion Fight

Man sues Phoenix clinic, doctors over abortion his ex-wife had 4 years ago
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2022 4:00 PM CDT
She Had an Abortion in 2018. Her Ex Later Sued the Clinic

As legal fights over access to abortion unfold in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ProPublica highlights an unusual lawsuit out of Arizona that it sees as a potential new front in the debate. A man in 2020 filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a Phoenix clinic and its doctors over the abortion his then-wife had two years prior. So far, a judge has allowed Mario Villegas to establish an estate on behalf of the embryo, which his wife aborted using pills at 7 weeks. There's precedent for lawsuits filed on behalf of embryos lost to, say, car accidents, "but a court action claiming the wrongful death of an aborted embryo or fetus is a more novel strategy," writes Nicole Santa Cruz.

"It's a lawsuit that appears to be a trial balloon to see how far the attorney and the plaintiff can push the limits of the law, the limits of reason, the limits of science and medicine," says Civia Tamarkin, president of the National Council of Jewish Women Arizona. ProPublica notes that the prominent anti-abortion group National Right to Life Committee is pushing civil suits such as this one as a way to discourage abortions and strengthen bans across the country. "The civil remedies follow what the criminal law makes unlawful," leader James Bopp Jr. tells the outlet. "And that’s what we’re doing." Critics, though, say civil suits of this nature are being used to intimidate abortion providers and harass women who get abortions.

In the Arizona case, ex-husband Villegas accompanied his then-wife (who is not identified) to the clinic for a consultation, the abortion itself, and a follow-up. At the clinic, his wife checked a box saying, “I am comfortable with my decision to terminate this pregnancy.” She also filled out forms saying she did not feel ready to be a parent and that their marriage was unstable. Villegas accuses the clinic of not providing adequate "informed consent" to his wife prior to the abortion. "He has no desire to harass" his former wife, his attorney tells ProPublica. "All he wants to do is make sure it doesn’t happen to another father." An attorney for the clinic owner calls the suit "ridiculous"; in a court deposition, Villegas' ex said she "felt completely informed." (Read the full story.)

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