Oscar Stilley, a 58-year-old Arkansas man, got up early on Monday morning and decided to sue Dr. Alan Braid, the San Antonio doctor who's openly defied Texas' state ban on most abortions.
"I was cranky," Stilley joked. "So I filed a lawsuit."
It is possibly the first lawsuit in the country to be tied to the new statute, SB 8, which prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable—about six weeks into a pregnancy. The law is enforceable by private citizens, who can take medical providers or anyone else who "abets" an abortion in violation of the ban to court to try and collect a bounty of up to $10,000.
"That's a fine payday," said Stilley, but the cash is only part of why he filed the complaint against Braid.
Stilley said he's been watching the saga unfold from his home in Arkansas. "I know what the proponents of this law are doing," he explained. "They're trying to inject uncertainty so that the doctors are going to say, 'Oh, my goodness, this could bankrupt me.'"
Whether or not that went through obstetrician and gynecologist Alan Braid's mind, he wrote in a Sunday Washington Post column that he performed an abortion outside of the legal six-week window permitted by the law. Braid was motivated, he wrote, by "a duty of care," and because he "wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested."
Stilley says he's eager to help test the new law. "I want a judgment on it. I'd like to get this established—is this a valid enactment or is this garbage that needs to be thrown out?"
In his complaint, Stilley describes himself as "a disbarred and disgraced former Arkansas lawyer" currently "on home confinement" from prison, where he's 11 years and 5 months into a 15-year sentence for tax evasion and conspiracy.
In Stilley's words, his sentence is a product of having gotten "crossways with the tax division." (Prior to that, he was a lawyer for 19 years, during which time he was also jailed twice on charges of contempt.)
Over the last decade, he has bounced around between prisons in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, compounds in which he said he'd spent over 400 total days on hunger strike. He currently works remotely as an administrative assistant for an engineering firm, a job he said pays him $13.75 an hour.
Stilley told the Beast he believes "any woman or any couple who has a defective fetus, and has the good sense and judgment to abort it, deserves our praise and our support." Basically, he added, "I support the jurisprudence that [the country has] on abortion right now" as "a libertarian sorta fella."
His complaint appears to be at least partly tongue-in-cheek. It charges based "on information and belief," that Braid "believes that his Elohim ('mighty ones,' AKA 'God' [sic] is entirely capable of giving a new body to replace a defective fetus, in the here and now, and not only 'when you die bye and bye.'"
There is obviously no basis for this in Braid's public statements. When Stilley tried to call Braid's San Antonio office on Monday morning, they wouldn't hear him out. "I think they thought I was a bad guy," he said, chuckling. Dr. Braid could not be reached by the Beast for comment on Monday night.
"But I just want to him to know—I respect the man," Stilley went on. "Any man who will stand on his hind legs, knowing good and well that the whole purpose of the thing is to bankrupt any doctor who tries it, and does what he thinks is the right thing to do, I have a high degree of respect for him."
Stilley doesn't think he'll win if his suit does go to trial. He doesn't know anyone who believes the heartbeat law is constitutional and enforceable, even after the Supreme Court declined to act and let the law go into effect. His real target are the legislators who installed the law in the first place. "I see what you guys are doing," he said. "Oscar's laying in wait for you. I'm coming."
In the meantime, said Stilley, "Oscar is going to be the fastest gun in the West. He's going to be there first. If there's money to be had, it's going to go in Oscar's pocket. Might as well go there as anywhere, if it's just a free-for-all. This is the Wild, Wild West."