Texas Supreme Court rules against women who called for clarity on legal exception for abortion

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in 2023, representing more than a dozen women who were denied medically necessary abortions.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court has ruled against more than a dozen of women who sought clarity on the legal exception of when physicians can perform abortions. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit in March 2023, representing 20 women who endured pregnancy complications and were denied medically necessary abortions. Two OBGYNs are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“Frankly, this ruling feels like a gut-punch not just for pregnant Texans but also for doctors in our state,” said lead plaintiff Amanda Zurawski. “The Supreme Court had the opportunity to provide clarity but they didn’t and we are right back where we started.” 

Doctors initially rejected Zurawski’s request to get an abortion when her water broke when she was 17 weeks pregnant because the fetus had a heartbreak. She developed sepsis, causing an infection that led to closing one of her fallopian tubes. Physicians then administered an emergency induction abortion, but Zurawski spent the next three days in the hospital. She’s since turned to in vitro fertilization. 

The Texas Supreme Court noted abortion exceptions can be made for life-threatening conditions like preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), but the Center for Reproductive Rights pointed out the court refused to say when in the course of a patient’s deteriorating health situation the exception would apply.

The high court’s decision reversed a lower court’s ruling, stating, “it departed from the law as written without constitutional justification.” 

“Texas law permits a life-saving abortion. A physician cannot be fined or disciplined for performing,” states the opinion. 

The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling emphasized the law’s medical exception for life-threatening conditions is sufficiently broad. 

“Today’s decision means that this kind of suffering will keep happening in Texas every day. If you are pregnant and find out your fetus has a lethal condition, you will be forced to continue that pregnancy and give birth unless you can afford to flee to another state,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

Texas doctors face up to 99 years in prison and at least $100,000 in fines if found to violate the abortion bans. 

Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the ruling stating in part: 

“Today, the Supreme Court of Texas unanimously upheld the Human Life Protection Act, one of our state’s pro-life laws,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I will continue to defend the laws enacted by the Legislature and uphold the values of the people of Texas by doing everything in my power to protect mothers and babies.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights made known it’s unclear at this time if the case will go forward.

Samantha Casiano, one of the plaintiffs, stressed advocacy efforts for change will continue. 

“I gave birth to my daughter and watched my daughter suffocate,” Casiano said. ” I just want other women to know that we’re here for you. You’re not alone.” 

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