WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Five women are suing the state of Texas for being denied abortions while facing medical crises due to the fear of legal repercussions under Texas’s abortion bans.
- The lawsuit is asking for clarification on the exceptions to the law, which includes limited exceptions for medical emergencies.
- Two doctors are also suing the state, stating that doctors who violate the abortion bans could face severe penalties, including losing their medical licenses, fines, and prison sentences.
Five women in Texas have filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that they were denied necessary and potentially life-saving obstetrical care due to medical professionals’ fear of liability under Texas’s abortion bans. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of the women and two doctors, who are also suing the state for violating the rights of pregnant women and physicians.
The doctors claim that they are unable to provide abortions in emergency situations for fear of running afoul of state law and facing severe penalties, including losing their medical licenses, fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and up to 99 years in prison.
The lawsuit seeks clarification on the exceptions to Texas’s near-total abortion ban known as SB 8, which took effect in September 2021. The law enabled individuals to file civil lawsuits worth tens of thousands of dollars against anyone found to have provided an abortion or helped a patient get one.
The law includes limited exceptions for medical emergencies, but doctors and medical professionals have stated that the laws are too vague to provide physicians with assurances that they will not face legal consequences.
Two of the plaintiffs, Anna Zargarian and Lauren Miller, have previously spoken publicly about being denied abortions under Texas’s abortion bans. Zargarian’s doctors denied her an abortion after her water broke at 19 weeks, fearing the prospect of severe infection. She flew to Colorado for a termination.
Miller and a second patient, Ashley Brandt, each faced complicated twin pregnancies in which doctors told them that terminating one twin would offer the best chance to preserve the life and health of the other twin and the pregnant women. Four of the five women ultimately left Texas to seek abortions in other states, including Colorado and Washington.
The Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, responded by stating that he will continue to defend and enforce the laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature and by forwarding a “guidance letter” on the state ban triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The Center for Reproductive Rights hopes that the lawsuit will oblige the state to provide clear guidelines for Texas doctors whose pregnant patients face serious medical complications.