A man in Arkansas and another in Illinois on Monday filed what appeared to be the first legal actions under a strict new abortion law in Texas that is enforced by ordinary citizens, regardless of where they live.
The Arkansas man, Oscar Stilley, who was described in the complaint as a “disbarred and disgraced” lawyer, said in an interview that he had filed the lawsuit against a Texas doctor, who publicly wrote about performing an abortion, to test the provisions of the law. The US Supreme Court declined to stop the law, which has effectively ended most abortions in the state since going into effect this month.
The law bars enforcement by state officials, a novel manoeuvre aimed at circumventing judicial review, and instead relies on citizens to file legal claims against abortion providers or anyone suspected of “aiding or abetting” an abortion. Successful suits can bring the plaintiffs awards of at least $10,000 (about €8,500).
Mr Stilley said he was not trying to halt abortions by Alan Braid, a San Antonio physician who wrote in The Washington Post on Saturday that he had violated the Texas law.
“I’m not pro-life,” Mr Stilley (58) said in an interview. “The thing that I’m trying to vindicate here is the law. We pride ourselves on being a nation of laws. What’s the law?”
The Justice Department has sued Texas over the law, known as Senate Bill 8, and argued in an emergency motion last week that the state adopted the measure “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.”
Mr Braid was also sued on Monday by an Illinois man, Felipe N Gomez, who described himself in his complaint as a “pro-choice plaintiff”. Mr Gomez could not be immediately reached for comment about his lawsuit, which was earlier reported by KSAT news in San Antonio.
“Neither of these lawsuits are valid attempts to save innocent human lives,” said John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, which lobbied for the new abortion law. “Both cases are self-serving legal stunts, abusing the cause of action created in the Texas Heartbeat Act for their own purposes.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.