By Reese Oxner, The Texas Tribune
A Texas doctor is being sued in two separate lawsuits for performing an abortion illegally under Texas’ new law that nearly bans the procedure, in what appear to be the first lawsuits spurred by the statute’s goal of making providers targets of litigation. But one of the plaintiffs says he’s not opposed to abortion and the other’s lawsuit reportedly asks that the state’s new abortion restrictions be ruled unconstitutional.
Dr. Alan Braid, a San Antonio OB/GYN, admitted in a Washington Post column published Saturday that he performed an abortion prohibited by the law earlier this month, motivated by “a duty of care.” He said although there “could be legal consequences,” he “wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.” No other lawsuits have been publicly announced, although because one could appear in a court anywhere in the state, it is unclear if others could have already been filed.
At least two lawsuits have been filed against Braid, both by disbarred attorneys. One was filed by Illinois resident Felipe N. Gomez, who identified himself as a “Pro Choice Plaintiff” and aligns himself with Braid in the lawsuit, KSAT reported. Gomez does not ask for monetary damages in the suit, but asks “the Court to declare that the Act is Unconstitutional, and in violation of Roe v Wade,” according to the TV station.
The plaintiff for the other lawsuit filed Monday is Oscar Stilley, according to a copy of the lawsuit he posted online. Bexar County court records show that he and Gomez filed lawsuits against Braid on Monday, but county officials did not make copies of the suits available online. The Bexar County District Clerk’s office did not respond to a phone call.
The law allows anyone in the country to sue people who “aid and abet” someone getting an abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detected — which can occur as early as six weeks. The person suing would get a minimum of $10,000 if they won the case, but even if it were thrown out, the law prevents defendants from recouping their attorney fees from the person who filed the suit — minimizing risk to the plaintiff.
“I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly,” Braid wrote in The Post column. “I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. … I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
In the copy of the suit he posted, Stilley described himself as a “disbarred and disgraced former Arkansas lawyer.” Stilley, who was convicted of tax fraud in 2010, is suing Braid for $100,000.
Stilley said in an interview that he’s not personally opposed to abortion, and he doesn’t think the law is necessarily a good one. However, he said he wants the $10,000 and will seek advice from anti-abortion organizations on how to best argue his case. If the law is struck down, he’ll count it as a win to find out if the lawsuit has merit or not.
“I’m not gonna let this thing fester so doctors are afraid. I want a prompt and honest decision,” he said. “Let’s find out if this thing is the law… if it is, let’s live by it, if not let’s get it struck down.”
Stilley said he expects to see this case move to an appellate court and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. Braid and Gomez did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.
Many legal experts have said they are waiting to see how a lawsuit might test the law in court.
Texas’ near-total abortion ban relies on private citizens — not state officials or law enforcement — to enforce it. This has so far allowed the law to skirt the precedents set by Roe v. Wade and subsequent court rulings because there isn’t a clear defendant to name in lawsuits.
The Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on the law’s constitutionality but allowed the ban to remain in effect, citing procedural difficulties. A federal lawsuit aiming to block enforcement of the ban is scheduled for a hearing on Oct. 1.
In the meantime, the statute has stopped most abortions in the state, with major clinics canceling appointments or even ceasing all abortions — even ones allowed under the law — out of fear of lawsuits.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.