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The state’s puppet witnesses in the HB2 lawsuit

The Austin Chronicle tells the story.

Among the state defense witnesses who took the stand on the third day of trial against Texas’ abortion-restricting House Bill 2 were two women with overt objections to abortion and one physician whose testimony in support of abortion regulations was recently discredited by a federal court.

Additionally, questions arose whether the Attorney General’s office coached and aided in witness testimony.

After two days of plaintiff testimony in U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel’s courtroom, it was the state’s turn to offer its witnesses. On Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Mayra Jimenez Thompson, a Dallas-based OB-GYN testified, and it was clear from the outset that Thompson was anti-choice; she said had not performed an abortion in 20 years because of her “religious” beliefs. In cross-examination, plaintiffs repeatedly asked Thompson if the Attorney General’s office and specifically, Dr. Vincent Rue, a representative of the office, had provided guidance or advice in her expert testimony report.

Initially, Thompson steadfastly denied any involvement from the OAG, saying she alone had drafted the document. However, in hopes of “refreshing her recollection,” plaintiffs produced several damning e-mail exchanges between her and Rue indicating constant assistance in drafting and modifying versions of the report. (Correspondence from Rue included: “I’m still drafting, will keep you posted”; “Tried to use as much of your material as I could, but time ran out”; “Just want you to review, I’ll keep working on the draft.”) Thompson defended the assistance, saying she was a medical doctor, not trained in legalese and the proper “wordage” of court testimony.

Rue isn’t just lending a hand to the Texas case; he’s a behind-the-scenes fixer for other states that are imposing anti-abortion laws, including Alabama and Wisconsin. Rue coined the term “post-abortion stress syndrome” – an alleged disorder thoroughly discredited by major medical groups, including the American Psychological Association, yet still endorsed by anti-choice activists. Rue’s testimony in previous cases, including the landmark Planned Parenthood v Casey, was rejected for lack of credibility. It’s reported that for his services in other states, Rue has received nearly $50,000.

While Thompson answered “no” when asked if she had financial/ownership interests in ambulatory surgical centers, plaintiffs recounted her deposition testimony, which showed Thompson is affiliated with the North Central Surgical Center in Dallas. Thompson countered the center was no longer an ASC and had become a full-fledged hospital in recent years. Thompson also admitted to failing to review eight of the nine studies on abortion mortality rates provided by plaintiffs before giving testimony.

Similarly, the next witness, Dr. James Anderson, an emergency room and family practice physician, also received aid from Rue, or as he phrased it, “wordsmithing.” In fact, Anderson holds a prior professional relationship with Rue, assisting him with reproductive rights and anti-abortion legislation in other state cases since 1997, including some concerning parental consent laws.

When questioned about Rue’s influence on his testimony, Anderson downplayed the degree of involvement, saying the legal draft was a “team effort” and “a collaboration.” Anderson said Rue provided sources for his testimony, including material from the Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-choice group. When asked about the group’s ideological motivations, Anderson conceded the source “risks bias, but still validates the need for the law.” Plaintiffs pointed out that just this week a federal district judge in Alabama discredited the majority of Anderson’s testimony in support of anti-abortion legislation in a suit filed by Planned Parenthood “due to concerns about his judgment or honesty.”

The witnesses provided by the state grew even weaker as the day wore on.

Hard to imagine, I know. See here for the background, here for the AusChron’s coverage of the plaintiffs’ case, and here for the rest of the state’s case. Some recent rulings from the federal courts give hope for the good guys, but remember that we’re still ultimately dealing with the Fifth Circuit here, so don’t get too much hope just yet. See Andrea Grimescoverage in RH Reality Check for more.

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