Pro-Choice Advocates Challenge Extreme Texas Abortion Ban

A coalition of women’s health organizations and advocates is challenging the onerous new Texas abortion ban, due to take effect in September, by suing the judges, county clerks and professional licensing organizations that would be responsible for enforcing it.

The group’s legal strategy is an unusual one, made necessary by what appears to be a legislative end-run aimed at preventing pro-choice advocates from suing state officials in federal court to stay the law. As explained in the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal:

“…abortion rights advocates have successfully challenged six-week abortion bans by suing government officials who were responsible for enforcing the laws. However, no state official is authorized to enforce the Texas law, a provision that seems intended to prevent abortion providers from suing the state in federal court to block enforcement.

“In this case, the plaintiffs have instead filed a lawsuit against individuals who could be involved in the enforcement process, such as every state court trial judge and county clerk and leaders of the Texas Medical Board and Texas Board of Nursing.”

Texas Heartbeat Bill Puts $10,000 Bounty on Abortion Providers

Similar to other so-called “heartbeat bills” that have been enacted in several states, the new Texas law prohibits all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically at around six weeks, and often before a woman knows she is pregnant. Unlike other state bans, the Texas law does not make exceptions for rape or incest, although there is an exception for medical emergency.

But the Texas law contains a diabolical new twist, designed to thwart challenges in federal court: Rather than making the state responsible for enforcement, this law would essentially put a bounty on anyone involved in an abortion in violation of the law.

The law would allow anyone—not just in Texas, but anywhere—to sue, not only the physician or clinic that perform the procedure, but anyone who counsels or refers the patient, provides funding for care or otherwise aids the patient in obtaining an abortion. The woman having the abortion cannot be sued. To sweeten the deal, plaintiffs would receive a $10,000 reward from the state for every successful lawsuit.

It’s easy to imagine the result: As the coalition wrote in its complaint, filed July 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, “If not blocked, S.B. 8 will force abortion providers and others who are sued to spend massive amounts of time and money to defend themselves in lawsuits across the state in which the deck is heavily stacked against them. Even if abortion providers and others sued in S.B. 8 lawsuits ultimately prevail in them—as they should in every case if only they could mount a fair defense—the lawsuits against them will still have accomplished S.B. 8’s goal of harassment.”

The law’s civil enforcement provision is unprecedented, according to ABA Journal: “While other kinds of laws authorize private citizens to sue for enforcement, such lawsuits are in addition to and in support of state enforcement.” The new Texas law is written so that civil enforcement—lawsuits by private citizens—is the only way the law will be enforced.

Scores of State Laws Aim to Overturn Roe v. Wade

As we have reported, the Texas abortion ban is only one among dozens of new state laws passed by conservative Republican legislatures and governors for the explicit purpose of challenging Roe v. Wade before the 6-3 conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an international non-profit research and policy organization, 90 state laws restricting abortion were passed in the first six months of 2021—more than in any year since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, breaking the previous record of 89 anti-choice laws enacted in 2011.

The Supreme Court announced in May 2021 that it will hear a case challenging a Mississippi abortion law that, if upheld, would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade. Two lower courts have ruled the law unconstitutional because it would ban all abortions after 15 weeks, with narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “severe fetal abnormality” but none for cases of rape or incest.

The law was deliberately drafted in defiance of earlier Supreme Court decisions that have established a woman’s right to have an abortion up to 24 to 28 weeks, when the fetus could survive outside the womb. Were the Supreme Court to uphold the Mississippi law, it would reverse the long-standing “viability” precedent and open the floodgates to a flood of new state bans.

Texas Abortion Ban to be Enforced by Civil Lawsuits

The legal case against the Texas abortion ban will be highly scrutinized, and the outcome is far from certain. Successful challenges to other state abortion restrictions have targeted states’ attorneys general and other authorities. The Texas law was deliberately crafted so that state officials have no role in enforcing the law, effectively removing the lawsuit target. As Stephen Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told The New York Times, “It is unclear how, exactly, this strategy will play out. The group is suing judicial officials instead of executive ones because there is no one else to sue, not because the judges and clerks are considered bad actors.”

No one knows what will happen when organizations and advocates sue the judges and county clerks who would be the hearing and enforcing civil suits against Texas abortion providers. As the Times noted, judges may be sympathetic to challenges to a law deliberately crafted to dodge legal remedy. “Behind those procedural questions is a fairly fundamental question about whether states really can dramatically infringe constitutional rights and leave the victims without a remedy,” Vladeck told the Times. “If Texas can do this for abortion, then tomorrow California can do it for guns.”

Likewise, established legal precedent says that in order to sue a party, the plaintiff must have “standing,” or the ability to demonstrate the plaintiff is being harmed or has an interest in the outcome of the case. The Texas law throws open the floodgates for anyone, anywhere, to sue parties involved in a Texas abortion. Courts may be skeptical of the position that plaintiffs have standing simply because they don’t approve of abortion.



Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.