A US doctor who said he performed an abortion in defiance of a new Texas law is being sued by two people seeking to test the legality of the state’s near-total ban on the procedure.
Former lawyers in Arkansas and Illinois have filed lawsuits 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 1 September.
The law 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 Dr Braid, because the law explicitly forbids that.
The only way the ban can be enforced is through lawsuits brought by private citizens, who are entitled to claim at least $10,000 (£7,300) in damages if successful.
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‘s anti-abortion law.
“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’,” he said.
Carol Sanger, a law professor at Columbia University in New York City, said Dr Braid “will be able to defend the action against him by saying the law is unconstitutional”.
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department is suing Texas in an attempt to block the new law, arguing the state’s legislature enacted it “in open defiance of the constitution”.
The civil lawsuit, filed in federal court in the state, asks a federal judge to declare the abortion law, known as SB8 (Senate Bill 8), is invalid “to protect the rights that Texas has violated”.
The Justice Department argues SB8 unlawfully infringes on the constitutional rights of women and violates the supremacy clause of the constitution, which says federal law supersedes state law.