A San Antonio doctor who said he performed an abortion in defiance of new Texas law has been prosecuted, setting up a potential test of the legality of an extreme and near-total ban on the procedure.
Former Arkansas and Illinois attorneys filed lawsuits Monday against Dr. Alan Braid, who became the first abortion provider in Texas to publicly reveal he had broken the law when he wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post this weekend. This piece practically dared the proponents of the law to set an example by prosecuting it, as it can only be enforced through private prosecutions.
“I’m taking a personal risk,” Braid wrote. “But it’s something I strongly believe in.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the last 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit and watch us go back to 1972.”
Oscar Stilley, the former Arkansas lawyer who filed one of the lawsuits, said he was not personally opposed to abortion and sued to force a court to review the lawsuit. ‘prohibition.
“If the law isn’t good, why should we 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 attorney’s license after being convicted of tax evasion in 2010, added in an interview with The Associated Press: “I don’t want doctors to be nervous and sitting there shaking in their boots and say, ‘I can’t do this because if it works, I’m going to go broke.'”
Texas law bars abortions once medical professionals can detect heart activity, which typically lasts about six weeks and before many women even know they are pregnant. Prosecutors cannot bring criminal charges against Braid because the law explicitly prohibits it. The only way to enforce the ban is through private citizen lawsuits, who are entitled to claim at least $10,000 in damages if successful.
Braid wrote that on September 6, he aborted a woman who was still in her first trimester but beyond the new state limit.
“I fully understand that there could be legal consequences – but I wanted to make sure Texas wouldn’t get away with its attempt 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, saying he began his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at a San Antonio hospital in 1972: “At the time, abortion was actually illegal in Texas – unless a psychologist certified that a woman was suicidal. If the woman had the money, we would send her to clinics in Colorado, California or New York. The others were alone. Some crossed the Mexican border.
Two federal lawsuits are pending in court over the law, known as SB8. In one, filed by abortion providers and others, the Supreme Court refused to block the law from taking effect while the case progresses through the legal system. In the second case, the Department of Justice asks a federal judge to declare the law invalid, arguing that it was enacted “in defiance of the constitution”.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the plaintiffs in the first federal lawsuit, is representing Braid.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the center, said she was “prepared to defend it against the legal actions that SB8 threatens to bring against those who provide or support access to abortion care protected by the Constitution”.