Update 9:30 p.m. EST: A second lawsuit has been filed against Braid for the same abortion procedure, by an Illinois resident named Felipe Gomez. He described himself as a “pro-choice plaintiff” in the suit, which identified Braid as the “pro-choice defendant.”
The Texas abortion provider who spoke publicly about defying the state’s six-week ban has been sued by a man in Arkansas, creating the first legal test for the unconstitutional legislation.
Alan Braid, a physician based in San Antonio, came forward with his story on Saturday, writing in a Washington Post op-ed about providing abortion care to a woman who was past the Texas’s gestational limit. Braid, who is represented by the lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said he acted knowing full well that he risked being sued, but he invited the consequences. “I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested,” he wrote.
Because of the legal mechanism at the heart of S.B. 8—which empowers private citizens to be its enforcers—reproductive rights groups have been stonewalled from challenging the law, since they were unable to name government officials as the defendants in their suit. But now that there is a person for groups contesting the law to sue, abortion rights supporters are hopeful that S.B. 8 will be struck down in court, since it blatantly violates Roe v. Wade.
The man who decided to level the suit against Braid is Oscar Stilley, a private citizen and former lawyer who told the Post he took legal action because he believes S.B. 8 should be subject to judicial review—not because he’s personally opposed to abortion.
“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, who is currently under house arrest for a tax evasion sentence, told the outlet. He added that he was incentivized by the $10,000 bounty-like reward associated with a successful suit: “If the state of Texas decided it’s going to give a $10,000 bounty, why shouldn’t I get that 10,000 bounty?”
In a separate interview with the New York Times, Stilley said: “I’m not pro-life. The thing that I’m trying to vindicate here is the law. We pride ourselves on being a nation of laws. What’s the law?”
The situation is improbable, but, because of the language of the law, it is not an entirely unsurprising outcome. Since S.B. 8 is unlike other six-week abortion bans, it has necessitated different strategies for for stopping it: like an abortion provider willing to act in defiance of the law and take the fall.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” Braid wrote on Saturday. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”