Attendees hold up signs during a Texas Rally for Abortion Rights at Discovery Green in Houston, Texas.
Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images
A man is suing his ex-wife’s friends for $3 million, saying they helped her get an abortion.
The lawsuit included texts in which the women discussed abortion pills, which are banned in Texas.
Lawyers say it could have a chilling effect on speech as the women have been targeted over their texts.
In a first-of-its-kind case since Roe v. Wade was overturned and abortion was outlawed in Texas, a man filed a lawsuit against his ex-wife’s friends, accusing them of helping her end her pregnancy.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Marcus Silva on March 9 in Galveston County, southeast of Houston, cites the state’s murder and wrongful death statutes. Silva is seeking $1 million in damages from each of the three women. His ex-wife was not named as a defendant. Their divorce was finalized in February.
“The abortion of Silva’s child took place in July 2022, after the Dobbs ruling. Self-managed abortion has been illegal in Texas even prior to Dobbs decision,” representatives of the Thomas More Society, a conservative not-for-profit law firm representing Silva, told Insider in an emailed statement. They also indicated Silva intends to sue the maker of the medication as well “once the manufacturer is identified” in court proceedings.
The statement also claimed the women could face murder charges, citing the state murder statute’s mention of cases involving an “unborn child,” but so far no criminal charges have been brought against them. “Silva is not bringing any claims against his former wife, who is immune from civil and criminal liability under Texas law,” they added.
None of the defendants responded to Insider’s requests for comment. It is unclear if they have retained legal counsel.
Silva’s ex-wife, who shares two children with him, sought out abortion methods two months after she filed for divorce, according to the lawsuit, which also would’ve been just weeks after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision overturned Roe and triggered abortion bans in several states.
The lawsuit, reviewed by Insider, alleges that one of the friends arranged for the abortion drugs to be delivered to Silva’s ex-wife. It also contains photos it says show text exchanges between Silva’s ex-wife and the other women. It is unclear who took the photos or how they were obtained.
“Mistakes happen. You can’t spiral. Hopefully this is the slap in the body that you need to remove yourself from him,” one of the friends texted, according to the photos in the lawsuit, later adding: “I just worry about your emotional state and he’ll be able to snake his way into your head.”
“Delete all conversations from today,” another one of the women said after some discussion about finding and taking abortion medication. “You don’t want him looking through it.”
Legal scholars with expertise in constitutional law and the federal courts told Insider that this lawsuit is the latest example of anti-abortion advocates fighting against medication abortions, as well as an effort to scare people away from providing support to friends or loved ones who are seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
“This lawsuit is looking to punish three women who helped a fourth woman receive the pills,” Doron Kalir, a professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, told Insider. “They attacked three women who texted. That’s their entire factual premise of this lawsuit. That seems far-fetched even for a lawsuit on abortion pills.”
Kalir said accusing the women of “causing death by text” was a “longshot,” adding that the women are essentially being sued for millions of dollars for giving their friend advice about an FDA-approved medication. He added the simple reality of being targeted by such a lawsuit could discourage others from talking to their friends in vulnerable situations, for fear of being sued.
The lawsuit also calls to mind SB 8, the abortion ban Texas passed in 2021 that had a vigilante-style enforcement mechanism by enabling private citizens to sue anyone who helped someone get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Jonathan Mitchell, the former Texas solicitor general and author of SB 8, is representing Silva in the case.
Jon D. Michaels, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Insider this lawsuit was “100%” inspired by SB 8.
“It just shows how the SB 8 law opened up the doors to the type of vindictive litigation of this sort,” he said.
In addition to trying to punish the people involved, Michaels said the lawsuit seemed as though it was “trying to scare or terrify others who would be making similar choices, further isolating pregnant persons, making them so much more vulnerable and dependent.”
Michaels agreed the lawsuit was about the larger effort to block access to abortions after clinics have largely closed in Texas and people are increasingly turning to neighboring states or abortion pills.
“You’re pushing people into the second-best solution, and then you’re clamping down on the second-best solution,” he said. “If there’s enough suits against abortion distributors and manufacturers, that drug supply could dry up.”
The lawsuit is the latest in a number of conservative efforts to target abortion pills, including in Texas. Anti-abortion groups in the state filed a lawsuit last year asking a federal judge to ban mifepristone, which has been approved by the FDA since 2000, nationwide.
A group of 20 Republican Attorneys General, including Texas AG Ken Paxton, sent a letter to pharmacies last month threatening legal action if they continued to stock abortion pills in states where the medications are illegal or their legal use is being challenged in court. Walgreens has announced plans to stop selling mifepristone medication in Texas, and other states where the medication is banned.
“Anyone involved in distributing or manufacturing abortion pills will be sued into oblivion,” Briscoe Cain, an attorney for Marcus Silva and a member of the Texas House of Representatives, said in a statement to Insider. “That includes CVS and Walgreens if their abortion pills find their way into our state.”