A San Antonio doctor who said he had performed an abortion in defiance of Texas’s new law has been sued, setting up a potential test of the legality of the extreme, near-total ban on the procedure.
Former attorneys in Arkansas and Illinois filed lawsuits on Monday against Dr Alan Braid, who became the first Texas abortion provider to publicly reveal he violated the law when he wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post over the weekend. That piece all but dared supporters of the law to make an example by suing him, because it can only be enforced through private lawsuits.
“I am taking a personal risk," Braid wrote. “But it’s something I believe in strongly.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of healthcare. I have spent the last 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
Oscar Stilley, the former attorney in Arkansas who filed one of the lawsuits, has said he is not personally opposed to abortion and sued in order to force a court to review the ban.
“If the law is no good, why should we have to go through a long, drawn-out process to find out if it’s garbage?” Stilley told the Washington Post.
Stilley, who said he lost his law license after being convicted of tax fraud in 2010, added in an interview with the Associated Press: “I don’t want doctors out there nervous and sitting there and quaking in their boots and saying, ‘I can’t do this because if this thing works out, then I’m going to be bankrupt.’”
los Texas law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before many women even know they are pregnant. Prosecutors cannot take criminal action against Braid, because the law explicitly forbids that. The only way the ban can be enforced is through lawsuits brought by private citizens, who are entitled to claim at least $10,000 in damages if successful.
Braid wrote that on 6 September he provided an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but beyond the state’s new limit.
“I fully understood that there could be legal consequences – but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested,” Braid wrote.
Braid also wrote about what it was like to work in Texas before Roe v Wade, dicho, he had begun his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at a hospital in San Antonio in 1972: "En el momento, abortion was effectively illegal in Texas – unless a psychologist certified a woman was suicidal. If the woman had money, we’d refer her to clinics in Colorado, California or New York. The rest were on their own. Some traveled across the border to Mexico.”
Two federal lawsuits are making their way through the courts over the law, known as SB8. In one, filed by abortion providers and others, the supreme court declined to block the law from taking effect while the case makes its way through the legal system. In the second case, the justice department is asking a federal judge to declare the law invalid, arguing it was enacted “in open defiance of the constitution”.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the plaintiffs in the first federal lawsuit, is representing Braid.
Nancy Northup, the center’s president and CEO, said it stands “ready to defend him against the vigilante lawsuits that SB8 threatens to unleash against those providing or supporting access to constitutionally protected abortion care”.