DALLAS (CBSDFW/AP) - A San Antonio doctor who said he performed an abortion in defiance of a new Texas law was sued by two people seeking to test the legality of the state's near-total ban on the procedure.
Former attorneys in Arkansas and Illinois filed lawsuits Monday against Dr. Alan Braid, who in a weekend Washington Post opinion column became the first Texas abortion provider to publicly reveal he violated the law that took effect on Sept. 1. Braid wrote that on Sept. 6, 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 said in the Post column that he started his obstetrics and gynecology residency at a San Antonio hospital on July 1, 1972, when abortion was "effectively illegal in Texas." That year, he saw three teens die from illegal abortions, he wrote.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade ruling, which established a nationwide right to abortion at any point before a fetus can survive outside the womb, generally around 24 weeks.
"I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces," Braid wrote. "I believe abortion is an essential part of healthcare. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can't just sit back and watch us return to 1972."
Under the law, the restriction can only be enforced through private lawsuits. It prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women even know they are pregnant. Prosecutors cannot take criminal action against Braid, because the law explicitly forbids that.
Legal experts say Braid's admission is likely to set up another test of whether the law can stand after the Supreme Court allowed it to take effect.
"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.
Two federal lawsuits are making their way through the courts over the law, known as Senate Bill 8. 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. It's still proceeding in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 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 they "stand ready to defend him against the vigilante lawsuits that S.B. 8 threatens to unleash against those providing or supporting access to constitutionally protected abortion care."
Oscar Stilley, who described himself as a former lawyer who lost his law license after being convicted of tax fraud in 2010, said he is not opposed to abortion but sued to force a court review of Texas' anti-abortion law, which he called an "end-run."
"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,'" Stilley, of Cedarville, Arkansas, told The Associated Press.
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