Next week, the Texas Supreme Court will hear Zurawski v. State of Texas, which aims to provide clarity for patients and physicians in Texas around the “medical emergency” exception in the state’s abortion ban. Texas’ hostile abortion landscape has left physicians with no clarity about when the medical emergency exception applies, and as a result, put pregnant people with complications in grave danger. This is the first lawsuit brought on behalf of women denied abortions since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Two dozen local elected officials across Texas signed an amicus brief to demand clarity for patients and physicians.
Texas’ abortion ban is one of the most restrictive in the United States, and the state is criminally prosecuting abortion aggressively. In 2023, Texas created limited affirmative defenses to civil claims brought against physicians for treating ectopic pregnancies or providing miscarriage management. However, physicians found to be in violation of Texas’ vague abortion laws face fines of at least $100,000, up to 99 years in prison, and revocation of their state medical licenses.
While the statewide ban includes an exception for medical emergencies, Texas’ efforts to criminalize abortion has made physicians afraid to rely on the exception and patients with pregnancy complications in the state are denied medically necessary abortions. Legal risks, combined with the ban’s unclear language, are deterring Texas physicians from providing their patients with abortion care — a necessary, life-saving procedure crucial for treating many dangerous pregnancy conditions.
That’s why the Center for Reproductive Rights filed Zurawski v. State of Texas on March 6, 2023 against Texas, seeking to clarify the scope of the state’s medical emergency exception under its extreme abortion ban. The case was brought on behalf of five Texas women — each denied abortion care after facing severe and dangerous pregnancy complications — and two Texas obstetrician-gynecologists. The case was heard by a state court district judge who issued an injunction on August 4, which blocked Texas’ abortion ban as it applies to dangerous pregnancy complications and clarified that doctors can use their own medical judgment to determine when to provide abortion care. However, the State immediately appealed the ruling. The Center for Reproductive Rights will argue the case at the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 28.
Patients across Texas counties and cities have experienced severe physical harm and mental anguish due to the lack of clarity surrounding the abortion ban and the medical emergencies that constitute an exception. Without clarity, physicians will be unable to provide their patients with the best care and patients will continue to suffer. Thank you to the Local Progress Texas members who used their voice to advocate for public health and body autonomy.