Response to Center for Reproductive Rights’ Legal Attack on Texas’ Abortion Laws
The Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based abortion advocacy firm, filed a lawsuit in state district court asking the court to clarify the scope of the exceptions in Texas abortion laws as applied to pregnant women with certain rare but life-threatening medical conditions. The case, filed on behalf of five Texas women and two physicians in the 353rd District Court, is Zurawski v. Texas, D-1-GN-23-000968.
“Our hearts go out to each woman mentioned in the brief who experienced the loss of an unborn child, either due to the child receiving a fatal fetal diagnosis or because the pregnancy was unsustainable for medical reasons,” commented Texas Alliance for Life Communications Director Amy O’Donnell. “But we believe that the language of the exception is clear: no woman with a life-threatening pregnancy should be required to wait before receiving treatment from her physician.”
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Texas’ pre-Roe laws went back into effect immediately, and the Human Life Protection Act went into effect in August. Both protect unborn children from abortion throughout pregnancy, and both have an exception to allow abortion in rare cases when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life. For example, the Human Life Protect Act allows abortion when in “reasonable medical judgment…a pregnancy…places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function…”
“Tragically, some physicians are waiting until their patients are nearly dead before performing a life-saving medical procedure, which is not required by Texas abortion laws. We see situations when pregnant women do not promptly receive treatment for life-threatening conditions as potential medical malpractice issues,” O’Donnell added.
Texas law is carefully crafted to allow doctors to treat women with life-threatening conditions promptly without risk of criminal or civil liability. The life of the mother exception language is the same exception language put into the law in 2013 to protect unborn babies from abortion beginning at 20 weeks. No physician has ever been prosecuted for performing abortions to save the mother’s life under that law. Furthermore, since the Human Life Protection Act went into effect in August 2022, elective abortions have dropped from thousands per month to zero. At the same time, doctors have performed a relatively small number of abortions each month for “emergency and health” reasons, according to reports from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services ITOP reports, without any prosecutions.
Texas Alliance for Life supports clarification of the medical emergency exception language within Texas’ pro-life laws. That clarification needs to come in the same way doctors are educated about other legislation affecting their practice in Texas.