One of the most sickening aspects of Texas’s new abortion law—aside from the fact that it effectively bans abortion at six weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest—is the way it is enforced. Instead of having the state go after individuals who violate SB8, the creeps who crafted the bill deputized vigilante citizens, dangling $10,000 for each person successfully sued for “aiding and abetting” the medical procedure. They did this knowing that the unique structure of the law would give the Supreme Court an out to let it proceed while not ruling on the constitutionality (legal experts say it’s most certainly unconstitutional), which is exactly what the court‘s conservatives did.
Crucially, keeping the law intact essentially required that no one take Texas up on the $10,000 bounty. And as New York’s Ed Kilgore notes, “for a couple of weeks, it looked like a stalemate between abortion providers afraid of being sued and a disciplined anti-abortion movement wary of filing a lawsuit that would get the law reviewed and frozen by the courts. But the lawmakers may have gone too far by enabling lawsuits by any old yahoo, even those living out of state, who knows how to find a Texas courthouse.” When Texas designed a law that put not just a cool five figures on the table but costs for legal fees if a plaintiff wins, doubtless many people were going to say, “Hey, I’ve got a free afternoon, I’ll sue.” And they have—but pro-choicers might not be happy about it.
The first suit, against Dr. Alan Braid, who wrote in a Washington Post column that he violated the ban, was filed this week by Felipe Gomez, an attorney who was suspended indefinitely in Illinois after other lawyers accused him of sending threatening and harassing emails, per KSAT news in San Antonio. According to Gomez, he is a “pro-choice plaintiff” and rather than seeking to punish Braid and scare other providers, he’s actually suing in the hopes of getting a judge to declare the Texas law unconstitutional. Gomez is reportedly not seeking any monetary damages.
Then there’s Oscar Stilley, who describes himself in his complaint as a “disbarred and disgraced former Arkansas lawyer.” A former attorney convicted of tax fraud in 2010 currently on home confinement, Stilley says he decided to file a lawsuit after reading a news report about Braid’s column. He told the Post that he believes the Texas law should be subject to judicial review: “If the law is no good, why should we have to go through a long, drawn-out process to find out if it’s garbage?” Unlike Gomez, Stilley is hoping to collect his $10,000, but he told the Times the whole thing is a win-win because he’ll either get the money or SB8 will be declared invalid.
People who do not believe a pregnant person should be in charge of their own body are, of course, deeply upset about these suits because (1) they could actually get the law overturned, and (2) they have nothing to do with punishing anyone, which was kind of the whole point. “Neither of these lawsuits are valid attempts to save innocent human lives,” John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, told The New York Times. “Both cases are self-serving legal stunts, abusing the cause of action created in the Texas Heartbeat Act for their own purposes.” In other words, Seago is pissed because Stilley and Gomez aren’t sufficiently showing this barbaric law the respect it supposedly deserves.
Seago added that he and others at Texas Right to Life “believe Braid published his Op-Ed intending to attract imprudent lawsuits.” Oh, no, not imprudent lawsuits! Who could have seen any of those coming after Texas passed a law literally letting anyone, in state or out, file a suit over a private medical procedure? In related news, on Monday a national poll revealed that a majority of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Texas ban to remain in place.
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