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'I want to see what the law is': Man sues Texas doctor who violated abortion ban to test law's constitutionality

Madlin Mekelburg, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in Political News

AUSTIN, Texas — A disbarred lawyer from Arkansas has sued a Texas doctor under the state's new law prohibiting most abortions, saying he wants to test the constitutionality of the sweeping ban — and collect $10,000 allowed under the law.

Dr. Alan Braid, a longtime physician in obstetrics and gynecology from San Antonio, wrote Sunday in an opinion piece in The Washington Post that he had performed an abortion outside the legal window permitted in the law, which prohibits the procedure before about six weeks of pregnancy.

Braid became the first doctor to publicly share that he had violated the ban, which took effect Sept. 1, writing in the Post that he knew his actions could draw a civil lawsuit under the law, which permits any individual to sue abortion providers or others seen as aiding and abetting an abortion that violates the ban.

On Monday, Oscar Stilley, a former lawyer convicted of tax fraud in 2010, filed such a lawsuit in Bexar County District Court.

"I woke up this morning ... and I saw a story about this doctor, Dr. Braid," Stilley told the Austin American-Statesman. "He's obviously a man of principle and courage and it just made me mad to see the trick bag they put him in and I just decided: I'm going to file a lawsuit. We're going to get an answer, I want to see what the law is."

The law allows successful plaintiffs to collect at least $10,000 for every illegal abortion that is exposed and does not require the individual to have any connection to the patient or defendant.

Stilley, who is on home confinement, said he saw an opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the provision — and possibly snag $10,000 in the process.

"(The statute) says any person can bring a lawsuit," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter that I'm a disbarred attorney. It doesn't matter that I'm in custody. It doesn't matter that I'm up in Arkansas and not in Texas. It kind of looks like I have nothing to do with it, but they said I can have a chance and I can go in there and I can sue and collect $10,000 for it.

 

"Well, that's the law and I want that $10,000 and I intend to be the fastest gun in the West."

The U.S. Department of Justice is challenging the law's constitutionality and has asked a federal judge in Austin to issue an emergency court order to block enforcement of the ban.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 1 to discuss the request.

In the meantime, officials with Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman's Health have said they plan to follow the law and have stopped performing abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

As a result, abortion providers in neighboring states have reported an influx of patients from Texas. The federal government's request for emergency action cited data from Planned Parenthood that showed Texans are claiming between 50% and 70% of available appointments at the provider's Oklahoma clinics.

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