On Monday, two men in Arkansas and Illinois filed what looked to be the first legal actions in Texas under tough new abortion legislation that is enforced by ordinary citizens regardless of where they live.
Oscar Stilley, an Arkansas man characterized as a “disbarred and disgraced” lawyer in the complaint, said in an interview that he brought the action against a Texas doctor who publicly wrote about executing an abortion to test the law’s terms. The Supreme Court rejected to overturn the law, which, since taking effect this month, has effectively stopped most abortions in the state.
The law prohibits state officials from enforcing it, a unique strategy aimed at avoiding judicial review. Instead, residents must file legal claims against abortion providers or anybody suspected of “aiding or abetting” an abortion. Successful suits can result in payouts of at least $10,000 to the plaintiffs.
The prospect of legal action appeared to curtail most abortions in Texas, according to proponents of the bill and anti-abortion campaigners. Some feared that the law’s openness — permitting anybody to file a lawsuit — would result in an unfavorable first test case for their cause.
Mr. Stilley said he wasn’t seeking to stop abortions performed by Dr. Alan Braid, a San Antonio physician who wrote in The Washington Post on Saturday that he had broken a Texas statute prohibiting abortions after heart activity is found, which is around six weeks into pregnancy. The Justice Department has sued Texas over the law, known as Senate Bill 8, claiming that the state passed it “to impede women from exercising their constitutional rights,” according to an emergency motion filed last week.
Dr. Braid was also sued on Monday by Felipe N. Gomez, an Illinois man who defined himself as a “pro-choice plaintiff” in his complaint. Mr. Gomez could not be reached for comment on his complaint, which was first reported by San Antonio’s KSAT news. Both complaints were filed in San Antonio state court, and both individuals are acting pro se.
He went on to say that he and others at Texas Right to Life believe Braid wrote his op-ed intending to attract frivolous lawsuits.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Dr. Braid, said he had not been properly served and that he would not be available for an interview. Marc Hearron, the group’s senior counsel, said in a statement that Texas law “states that ‘any individual’ can sue over a violation,” and that “we are beginning to see that happen, including by out-of-state litigants.”