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Texas legislators passed an extremely restrictive law effectively rendering abortion illegal in early September. As a result, a San Antonio doctor positioned himself to be targeted for repercussions when he announced he terminated a woman’s pregnancy past the six-week cutoff outlined in the law. On Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, two ex-lawyers filed separate lawsuits against the doctor to force a judiciary review of the law’s constitutionality.
In the opinion published on Saturday, September 18, in The Washington Post, Dr. Alan Braid wrote about his obstetrics and gynecology career beginning with his residency in July 1972. At the time, Texas forbade pregnancy termination unless the woman was certified suicidal. The hospital referred women to clinics in Colorado, California, or New York if they could afford the trip.
During the following year, he saw three teenagers die from illegal abortions. One memory stuck with him: “When she came into the ER, her vaginal cavity was packed with rags. She died a few days later from massive organ failure, caused by septic infection.”
After the Supreme Court ruling that Roe v Wade was constitutional in 1973, Braid went about the regular tasks of an OB/GYN, including delivering babies and providing abortion care. That is until Sept. 1, 2021, when the Texas legislators passed the strictest pro-life law in the country that essentially banned terminating pregnancies.
The Texas abortion ban, known as S.B. 8, is an unusual law in that it is not enforced by any government agencies but by “concerned citizens’ — vigilantes — through private lawsuits.
The timing of the cases brought against Dr. Braid and his opinion piece in The Washington Post is suspect as they seemed to occur almost simultaneously. After explaining that he performed an abortion on September 6, which was legal based on the United States Constitution but illegal in Texas, he seemed to invite the legal challenges:
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. Represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, my clinics are among the plaintiffs in an ongoing federal lawsuit to stop S.B. 8.
Former attorneys Felipe N. Gomez of Chicago, Illinois, and Oscar Stilley of Cedarville, Arkansas, filed suits the first business day after the doctor’s announcement in The Washington Post.
Stilley told the Associated Press he is not against abortion but filed the lawsuit “to force a court review of Texas’ anti-abortion law.” He further stated his support of the doctors who are now fearful of doing their job because of the potential financial drain of court cases. S.B. 8 incentivizes vigilantes to bring lawsuits against doctors and anyone else assisting in a woman obtaining the procedure, even if unwittingly.
Gomez asked the San Antonio Court in his lawsuit to find the law unconstitutional. He believes the law is a form of government overreach and views the lawsuit as a way to hold Texas’ Republican legislators accountable. Citing the state’s government’s lax response to the COVID-19 pandemic conflicts with the anti-abortion legislation:
If Republicans are going to say nobody can tell you to get a shot they shouldn’t tell women what to do with their bodies either. I think they should be consistent.
Opinion News by Cathy Milne-Ware
NPR: A Doctor Who Defied Texas’ Abortion Law Is Sued, Launching A Legality Test Of The Ban
The Washington Post: Opinion: Why I violated Texas’s extreme abortion ban; by Alan Braid
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