Texas Judge Allows Abortion Exceptions for Women with Pregnancy Complications

A state judge in Texas has ruled that the state’s abortion ban is too restrictive for women who face serious health risks due to their pregnancies and must allow them to access abortion care without fear of criminal prosecution. The ruling, issued on Friday, is the first to challenge the constitutionality of Texas’ law since it took effect in 2022 and overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that recognized the right to abortion.

Texas Judge Allows Abortion

Plaintiffs Share Their Traumatic Experiences

The lawsuit was filed in March by four women who were denied abortions in Texas after they learned that their fetuses had severe abnormalities or that their own lives were in danger. They testified in an Austin courtroom about the physical and emotional pain they endured as a result of being forced to carry their pregnancies to term or travel out of state for abortion services.

One of the plaintiffs, Amanda Zurawski, developed sepsis and nearly died after being refused an abortion when her water broke at 18 weeks. She had to deliver a stillborn baby and undergo a hysterectomy, which left her unable to have more children. Another plaintiff, Samantha Casiano, was forced to give birth to a baby who had no brain and died four hours later. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression after the ordeal.

“For the first time in a long time, I cried for joy when I heard the news,” Zurawski said in a statement. “This is exactly why we did this. This is why we put ourselves through the pain and the trauma over and over again to share our experiences and the harms caused by these awful laws.”

Judge Rules That Texas Law Violates Due Process Rights

State District Judge Jessica Mangrum ruled that Texas’ law violates the due process rights of women with pregnancy complications by imposing an undue burden on their access to abortion. She said that the law’s exceptions for medical emergencies are vague and insufficient, and that doctors who perform abortions in such cases face the threat of criminal charges and civil lawsuits.

“The court has been clear: doctors must be able to provide patients the standard of care in pregnancy complications. That standard of care in certain cases is abortion because it is essential, life-saving healthcare,” Mangrum wrote in her order. “This decision is a win for Texans with pregnancy complications, however Texas is still denying the right to abortion care for the vast majority of those who seek it.”

Mangrum issued a permanent injunction that bars the state from enforcing the law against women with pregnancy complications and their doctors. She also ordered the state to pay for the plaintiffs’ legal fees and costs.

State Expected to Appeal the Ruling

The state of Texas is expected to appeal Mangrum’s ruling and seek a stay of the injunction pending the outcome of the appeal. The state has argued that its law already allows for exceptions in cases of medical emergencies, and that doctors have no reason to fear prosecution or lawsuits if they act in good faith.

The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, has vowed to defend the law and uphold the state’s interest in protecting unborn life. He has also criticized Mangrum for being biased and activist in her decision.

“Judge Mangrum’s ruling is a blatant disregard for the will of Texans and our democratic process,” Paxton said in a statement. “She has chosen to side with radical abortion activists who seek to undermine our state’s sovereignty and the sanctity of human life. We will not let this stand and will continue to fight for the rights of the unborn.”

Implications for Other States with Abortion Bans

The ruling by Mangrum could have implications for other states that have enacted or are considering similar abortion bans in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last year that overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision, which was issued by a 6-3 conservative majority, gave states more leeway to regulate or prohibit abortion as they see fit.

Since then, more than a dozen states have passed laws that ban abortion at various stages of pregnancy, some as early as six weeks or before most women know they are pregnant. Some of these laws also include exceptions for medical emergencies or fetal anomalies, but they are often unclear or narrow in scope.

Abortion rights advocates hope that Mangrum’s ruling will inspire more lawsuits by women who have been harmed by these laws and expose their cruelty and unconstitutionality. They also hope that it will pressure lawmakers to reconsider their stance on abortion and respect women’s autonomy and health.

“It would be unconscionable for the State of Texas to appeal this ruling,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which helped bring the lawsuit. “This ruling should prevent other Texans from suffering the unthinkable trauma our plaintiffs endured.”

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