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Texas Matters: The doctor who stood up to SB8

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An abortion-rights supporter holds a sign at a demonstration outside the Texas Capitol on Tuesday.
Michael Minasi
An abortion-rights supporter holds a sign at a demonstration outside the Texas Capitol on Tuesday.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Senate Bill 8 — also known as The Texas Heartbeat Act — was the toughest anti-abortion bill in the country.

It bans abortion after the detection of embryonic cardiac activity, which normally occurs after about six weeks of pregnancy. Medically this isn’t really an independent heartbeat, but supporters called it that.

It was the first time a state has successfully imposed a six-week abortion ban since Roe v. Wade, and the first abortion restriction to solely be enforced through civil lawsuits. There was no criminal penalty for violating SB8.

The enforcement mechanism was allowing members of the public to sue anyone who performs or facilitates an illegal abortion for a minimum of $10,000 in statutory damages per abortion, plus court costs and attorneys' fees.

To many, the law appeared unconstitutional on its face, but it went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021, after the conservative U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for emergency relief from Texas abortion providers.

That didn’t sit well with San Antonio physician Alan Braid. On Sept. 6, 2021, he performed an illegal abortion. Two weeks later, in an op-ed published by The Washington Post, Braid told the world about it — acknowledging he opened himself up to civil lawsuits related to the Act.

Two days later, the first of multiple suits against Braid was filed. Earlier this month, a judge in San Antonio threw out the lawsuit filed against Braid. The judge said people who have no connection to the prohibited abortion and have not been harmed by it, do not have standing to bring these lawsuits.

TPR's David Martin Davies spoke with Braid about his stand against SB8 and why he did it.

(This episode of Texas Matters originally air on December 16, 2022.)

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi