Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
A Texas doctor is being sued for performing an abortion illegally under Texas’ new law that nearly bans the procedure, in what appears to be the first lawsuit tied to the statute.
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 another could have already been filed.
The plaintiff for the lawsuit filed on Monday against Braid is Oscar Stilley, according to a copy of the lawsuit he posted online. Bexar County court records show that he filed a suit against Braid on Monday, but county officials did not make a copy of the suit available online. The Bexar County District Clerk’s office did not respond to a phone call. 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 he said he isn’t personally opposed to abortion and thinks the law should be subject to judicial review, according to the Washington Post.
“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 Post. “If the state of Texas decided it’s going to give a $10,000 bounty, why shouldn’t I get that 10,000 bounty?”
Many legal experts have said they are waiting to see how a lawsuit might test the law in court.
“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.”
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.
The lawsuit 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.
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.
If you appreciate reporting like this, you need to be at the all-virtual 2021 Texas Tribune Festival happening now through Sept. 25. Join as big names from politics, public policy and the media share what’s next for Texas and beyond. Explore live and on-demand programming, including dozens of free events, at tribfest.org.