DALLAS (AP) – A San Antonio doctor who said he committed an abortion in defiance of a new Texas law has dared supporters of an almost total ban on state procedure to try to make an early example by presenting a demand – and on Monday, two people forced.
Former Arkansas and Illinois attorneys filed separate state lawsuits Monday against Dr. Alan Braid, who in one weekend published an opinion column in the Washington Post became Texas ’first abortion provider to publicly reveal that it violated the law that went into effect Sept. 1.
Both appeared before the largest anti-abortion group in the state, which had said it had lawyers ready to file lawsuits. Neither lawyer who filed a lawsuit said they were anti-abortion. But they both said the courts should weigh.
Texas law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually about six weeks and even before some women know they are pregnant. Prosecutors cannot take criminal action against Braid, because the law explicitly prohibits it. The only way the ban can be enforced is through lawsuits filed by private citizens, who do not have to be from Texas and are entitled to claim at least $ 10,000 in damages if it occurs.
Oscar Stilley, who described himself in court as a dishonorable ex-lawyer who lost his legal license after being convicted of tax fraud in 2010, said he does not oppose abortion, but demanded a review. Texas Anti-Abortion Act, which he called “final.”
“I don’t want the doctors to be nervous and sitting there, shivering in their boots and saying,‘ I can’t do this, if this works, I’ll be bankrupt, ’” said Stilley, of Cedarville., In Arkansas, near the border with Oklahoma, he told The Associated Press.
Felipe N. Gomez, of Chicago, asked a San Antonio court in his lawsuit to declare the new law unconstitutional. In his view, the law is a form of government reach. He said his demand is a way to hold Republicans running Texas accountable, adding that his lax response to public health during the COVID-19 pandemic conflicts with his reduced abortion rights.
“If Republicans say no one can tell you to shoot, they shouldn’t tell women what to do with their bodies either,” Gomez said. “I think they should be consistent.”
Gomez said he was unaware he could claim up to $ 10,000 in damages if he won his lawsuit. If he received money, Gomez said, he would probably give it to an abortion rights group or to the patients of the doctor he sued.
Legal experts say Braid’s admission is likely to establish further evidence as to whether the law can be upheld after the Supreme Court allows it to come into force.
“Being sued puts him in a position … that he will be able to defend the action against him by saying the law is unconstitutional,” said Carol Sanger, a law professor at Columbia University in New York City.
Braid wrote that Sept. 6 provided an abortion for a woman who was still in her first trimester, but who goes beyond the new state limit.
“I understood perfectly well that there could be legal consequences, but I wanted to make sure Texas didn’t come out with its candidacy to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being put to the test,” Braid wrote.
Two federal lawsuits were already making their way to the courts by law, known as Senate Bill 8. In one, filed by abortion providers and others, the Supreme Court refused to prevent the law from coming into force while the case was making its way through the legal system. He still continues on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States. In the second case, the Justice Department asks a federal judge declare the law invalid, arguing that it was enacted “openly defying the Constitution.”
The Reproductive Rights Center, one of the plaintiffs in the first federal lawsuit, represents Braid.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the center, said they are “willing to defend it against the surveillance demands that SB 8 threatens to trigger against those who provide or support access to constitutionally protected abortion care.” .
Braid could not be contacted immediately for comment Monday. Her clinic referred interview interviews to the center.
Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, criticized both lawsuits and Braid’s opinion column.
“None of these demands are valid attempts to save innocent human lives,” the group said. “We believe that Braid published his published work with the intention of attracting reckless demands, but none came from the Pro-Life movement.”
Texas Right to Life launched a website for advice on alleged violations, although it is currently redirected to the group’s home page. A spokeswoman for the group has noted that the website is mostly symbolic because anyone can report a breach and because abortion providers appeared to comply with the law.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s office did not return a message Monday asking for comments.
Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said that if a lawsuit against Braid reaches the Texas Supreme Court, that court could decide whether the legislature exceeded its power by allowing someone to sue.
“The Texas Supreme Court will have the opportunity or the obligation to say whether this approach, which would not be limited to abortion, is an acceptable way for the legislature to pursue its goals,” Grossman said.
Seth Chandler, a law professor at the University of Houston, said any plaintiff “should convince a Texas court that he is entitled” even though he has not personally suffered financial or property damages.
“The only thing that could have happened is that she is offended by the fact that the abortion has been performed,” she said. “But there are a lot of Supreme Court decisions that say simply offending isn’t the basis of a lawsuit, and there are Texas Supreme Court decisions that say we’re following federal law on what’s being said.”
Braid told the Post column that he began his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at a San Antonio hospital on July 1, 1972, when abortion was “effectively illegal in Texas.” That year saw three teenagers die due to illegal abortions, he wrote.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its Roe v. Wade ruling, which established a national right to abortion at any time before a fetus can survive outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” Braid wrote. “I think abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the last 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t sit back and look back at 1972. “
Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg and Adam Kealoha Causey in Dallas and Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.