Patients and Doctors Rally Against Texas Abortion Ban

( – Anyone who thought the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade in 2022 would settle America’s perennial war over abortion might want to think again. With the right to regulate abortion now in the hands of individual states, even conservative strongholds such as Texas are battling the issue out in court.

On November 28th, a coalition of plaintiffs including doctors and patients asked the Texas Supreme Court to tie the state’s hands so that it cannot enforce a law that bans nearly all abortions. Texas’ law, among the strictest in the nation, bans all abortions except those necessary to save the mother’s life.

As always, the devil is in the details, and in the eye of the person interpreting the law. Abortion advocates say the Lonestar law is too vague and does not properly lay out what the state considers a life-threatening emergency to the mother. They claim that this may dissuade doctors from providing life-saving care to women experiencing legitimate pregnancy complications. Lawyer Molly Duane of the Center for Reproductive Rights is representing the plaintiffs. She said the complainants are making a reasonable request for “common-sense guidance” that will allay doctors’ fears of prosecution if they perform an abortion using “good faith judgment” that the mother would die if the pregnancy were not terminated.

The plaintiffs, originally five women and two doctors, filed suit against the state in March of this year. Later, 15 more women joined as plaintiffs. They’re asking the state’s Supreme Court for an order stating that doctors cannot be prosecuted for performing abortions if, in their “good faith judgment,” failing to do so would allow a woman to die.

In early August, a lower court blocked the law from going into effect, but that order has been suspended while the state itself has an appeal before the Texas Supreme Court. That now-suspended order from Judge Jessica Mangrum (Travis County, Texas, District Court) ruled the state could not prosecute doctors who performed abortions to prevent a health risk to the mother, or because the baby would not likely survive long after birth. It is not clear how Mangrum’s order can line up with the state law, which allows for abortion to save the life of the mother but does not provide exemptions for less serious health risks, nor exemptions based on how likely the baby is to survive.

Oral arguments before the state’s high court took place on November 28th. It is not yet known when the court will issue a ruling.

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