Texas Abortion Advocates Sue for Reproductive Rights

Manning new battle lines in the fight for legal abortion

Plaintiffs held a press conference February 7 after filing a lawsuit challenging the state's abortion bans: (l-r) Lauren Miller, Lauren Hall, and Amanda Zurawski (Photo by Jana Birchum)

March 7: Abortion advocates in Texas are manning new battle lines in the fight for legal abortion. With Roe v. Wade overruled, they're working to compel the state to allow abortion in cases of medical emergency.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed Zurawski v. State of Texas February 7, asking the state to clarify what constitutes a medical emergency under the Texas statute that allows the termination of only some dangerous pregnancies. Twenty women joined the lawsuit, including several whose abortions were delayed after they suffered life-threatening infections. Another plaintiff was forced to give birth to a baby with no chance of survival, only to watch the infant suffocate to death.

Attorney Molly Duane of the Center for Reproductive Rights told the Texas Supreme Court on Nov. 28 that state law frightens doctors into refusing to perform abortions that are clearly necessary. "The abortion bans as they exist today subject physicians to the most extreme penalties imaginable – life in prison and loss of their medical licenses," she said. "While there is a medical exception to the bans, nobody knows what it means and the state won't tell us."

A closely related case came to light on Dec. 5, when Dallas resident Kate Cox filed suit for permission to terminate her pregnancy after her doctor warned it would be fatal to the fetus and could damage her uterus. Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a temporary restraining order to prevent Texas from prosecuting Cox, her doctor, and her husband, but the Texas Supreme Court put a hold on that decision the following day and overruled it this week. Cox ultimately left the state to seek care.

“While there is a medical exception to the bans, nobody knows what it means and the state won’t tell us.” – Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Molly Duane

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