Two disbarred lawyers sued a Texas doctor who performed an abortion. Flustered ‘pro-lifers’ are backpedaling

Jay Janner/AP Photograph
Dr Alan Braid is an OBGYN in San Antonio who intentionally broke the law. The Washington Post published an essay last Saturday by Dr. Alan Braid stating that he had performed an abortion on a woman over six weeks gestation. This was the limit set by Texas' new abortion ban, SB8. He wrote that he felt morally bound to perform the procedure. His years of obstetric practice had shaped his worldview as a result of conversations with patients about their reasons for terminating pregnancies. These included: because they couldn't afford more children, because they had been subject to rape, because they were living with abusive partners or because they desired to pursue other goals.

He also wrote that he began his practice in 1972 before Roe V Wade. This was the last year in which an outright ban on abortion had been in effect in his state. Dr Braid said that he witnessed three teenage girls die in illegal abortions at the hospital that year. This is the one I will always remember. Her vaginal cavity was stuffed with rags when she arrived at the ER. Her vaginal cavity was stuffed with rags when she arrived at the ER. She later died from severe organ failure.

He was immediately sued. On Monday morning, Dr Braid was the subject of two complaints from out-of-state men. Oscar Stilley, a former attorney and convicted felon, filed the second complaint. He is currently under house arrest in Arkansas. Stilley appears to have written the complaint. It contains multiple references to Dr Braid's behavior regarding bastards, and his belief in Elohim, a Hebrew god. Stilley feels strongly that Oscar will get it if there is money to be had.

Felipe Gomez, an Illinois man, is the second plaintiff. He claims to be a pro-choice plaintiff and his complaint only asks that SB8 not be overturned. These test cases, as bizarre and confusing as they may be, offer the best chance to have SB8 vacated and to allow abortion rights to return to Texans for now.

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This was not necessary. If a conservative state passes an anti-abortion ban, state employees are often tasked to enforce the law. Pro-choice groups name them as defendants in lawsuits. Courts declare the law unconstitutional, which prevents the law from being implemented before real patients are denied access to abortion care. Texas' SB8 is a novel enforcement mechanism that prohibits state agents from enforcing the law. It bypasses the normal process of judicial review. The law cannot be enforced through private civil suits against anyone suspected of aiding abortions lawsuits, such as the ones filed by Stilley or Gomez.

Dr Alan Braid assumed a lot of personal responsibility so that the issue of the right to abortion could be heard fairly

This private enforcement mechanism acts like a legal Rube goldberg machine, and allows for courts to ignore the bill's abortion ban. Jonathan Mitchell, a conservative lawyer, created the loophole to confuse lawsuits about the law's constitutionality with procedural questions rather than substantive ones. This was to ensure that SB8 would be in effect. This device is a transparent attempt to bypass the federal courts' authority. These same federal courts, now influenced by decades of antichoice influence over the judicial nominations processes, allowed it to slide. The fifth circuit court of appels judges and the supreme court judge found that the procedural questions engineered by SB8 gave them enough pretext to do what was necessary: Allow a state to outlaw all abortion within its borders and thus effectively end Roe.

The supreme court approved SB8's entry into force, leaving the pro-choice movement without a choice. Pre-enforcement litigation was unsuccessful on artificial procedural grounds. To create a test case, an illegal abortion was necessary. This was performed by someone who was willing to take enormous personal risk. SB8 would only be allowed to be reviewed on its merits if there was a deliberate violation of law. Here is Dr Braid. He not only provided an immense service to the woman whose abortion he performed but also rendered a service to both the pro-choice movement and women throughout the state. He was able to assume enormous personal responsibility so that the issue of abortion rights could be heard.

The anti-choice movement isn't happy that lawsuits to enforce the ban on abortion are actually being brought before Texas courts. John Sego, the legislative director of Texas Right to Life (an anti-choice group that supports SB8), expressed dissatisfaction at the way the law is being applied exactly as it was intended. He described the lawsuits as self-serving legal maneuvers. He claimed that the lawsuits were self-serving legal stunts.

Perhaps they realized that bounty hunting is a controversial provision of the law and that suits can be bad PR for the anti-choice movement.

Perhaps Sego and his antichoice colleagues are ashamed to have their interests represented in court by Stilley, a litigant with his outrageous feloniousness. Perhaps they realize that the law's bounty-hunting provisions are not popular and that these suits are bad PR for the antichoice movement. Sego says that he believes Braid published the op-ed in an attempt to attract imprudent lawsuits. However, Sego's group created an abortion snitch site to solicit information about potential defendants in SB8 enforcement lawsuits against abortion providers. A judge stopped Texas Right to Life filing the suits.

Sego may be upset by the lawsuits against Braid because SB8's bounty hunting enforcement system was only a small part of the antichoice vision for law. SB8 would make abortions in Texas impossible. It wasn't because people would sue. Instead, it was that abortion providers would stop performing abortions if they were faced with the possibility of losing their business to lawsuits. This was an attempt to intimidate Texan women to take back their constitutional rights to control their bodies and lives. This tactic has mostly worked. Legal abortions in Texas have been stopped for six weeks, more than three weeks after SB8 was implemented. Clinics are refusing to accept pregnant patients because they fear liability. Only Dr Braid has so far called the anti-choice movements "bluff".