Texas Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Abortion Ban Due to Medical Exceptions

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday rejected a challenge to the state’s strict abortion ban — a response to a lawsuit filed last year by a group of women who had serious pregnancy complications.

The decision was unanimous. The nine judges are all Republicans.

Five Women filed a lawsuit in March 2023, claiming they were being denied abortions even when problems arose during pregnancy that put their lives at risk. The case grew to include 20 women and two doctors.

The defendants did not seek to repeal the ban, but rather to impose clarification and transparency as to the precise circumstances in which the exceptions are permitted. They also wanted doctors to have more latitude to intervene in cases of medical complications during pregnancy.

In August, a district court judge issued a temporary injunction, blocking Texas from enforcing the ban against doctors who terminated a pregnancy they deemed unsafe due to complications.

“The Court finds that there is uncertainty as to whether the medical exception to Texas’s abortion bans…permits a physician to provide abortion care when, in good faith and in consultation with the person pregnant, she has an emerging medical condition,” the decision states.

Zurawski v. Texas was the first to legally challenge state bans that specifically targeted women with complicated pregnancies.

One of the lead plaintiffs, Amanda Zurawski, said she nearly died in August 2022 when doctors delayed her medically necessary abortion after she had catastrophic complications when she was 18 weeks pregnant. After her health deteriorated, her doctors eventually performed an abortion. She said she later suffered sepsis and spent three days in the intensive care unit.

Her doctors then advised her not to try to carry a baby again, she said. So she and her husband turned to in vitro fertilization and sought to have a baby through a surrogate mother.

Zurawski and some of the other defendants tested verified their experiments in July.

At that hearing, plaintiff Samantha Casiano recounted that at 20 weeks pregnant, she learned that her baby had anencephaly, a serious condition that meant she was missing parts of her brain and skull. The condition was also life-threatening, she said. Casiano sobbed and vomited on the stand as she described her baby’s fatal birth defect, prompting the judge to declare a stay. She said she suffered emotional trauma during her pregnancy.

Friday’s decision by the Texas Supreme Court is consistent with a ruling it issued in December ordering a lower court to overturn an order that had blocked the state’s abortion ban from being enforced. Status in the case of Kate Cox.

Cox sued the state after her developing fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that significantly increases the risk of stillbirth or infant death shortly after birth. She requested a court order allowing her to terminate her pregnancy.

Cox’s lawyers had argued that carrying the pregnancy endangered her health and future ability to have children. Shortly before the Texas Supreme Court ruled against her, Cox left Texas to follow the proceedings. Her case was believed to be the first in which a person sought a court-ordered exception to the abortion ban following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wading into 2022.

Texas law prohibits all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant patient. Doctors who violate this law can lose their medical licenses, face up to 99 years in prison or face fines of at least $100,000. Critics of the ban, which is one of the most restrictive in the United States, said it did not provide enough clarity on what exceptions were allowed.

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