Five courageous women who were denied lifesaving abortions during medical emergencies in Texas are taking legal action against the state. In a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, two doctors are also involved, seeking clarification on the exceptions to Texas’s controversial abortion laws. Medical professionals across the state are reportedly hesitant to offer obstetrical care due to the threat of legal action under the abortion bans.
Molly Duane, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, explains that just because the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is no longer in effect, it does not mean that women and pregnant people are without basic human rights. She stresses that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are individuals in medical emergencies who require urgent medical care but are being denied by physicians who are afraid of legal repercussions.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is named as a defendant in the suit, and his office has responded that he will continue to uphold the laws passed by the Texas Legislature. The state’s near-total abortion ban, SB 8, came into effect in September 2021, and allows individuals to file civil lawsuits worth tens of thousands of dollars against anyone who provides or assists in an abortion. The law provides only limited exceptions for medical emergencies.
Two of the plaintiffs, Anna Zargarian and Lauren Miller, have previously shared their stories with NPR. Zargarian was denied an abortion after her water broke at 19 weeks, too early for the fetus to survive. Her doctors refused to perform the procedure due to the state’s strict abortion laws, so she flew to Colorado for a termination. Zargarian courageously decided to come forward with her full name as part of the lawsuit because “somebody is going to die eventually.”
Medical professionals in Texas are facing the threat of losing their medical licenses, fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and up to 99 years in prison for violating the state’s abortion bans. Doctors and hospitals are turning away patients, even those in medical emergencies, out of fear. The lawsuit aims to provide clear guidelines to Texas doctors whose pregnant patients face serious medical complications.
The plaintiffs and their doctors’ bravery in coming forward should be applauded. It is time for the state of Texas to prioritize the basic human rights of pregnant people and provide the necessary care in medical emergencies.