Lawsuit filed in Texas court against the state’s abortion ban seeks to clarify its ‘medical emergency’ exemption
On behalf of five patients and two obstetrician-gynecologists, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in Texas District Court on Monday over the state’s abortion ban.
The lawsuit seeks to clarify the scope of the state’s “medical emergency” exemption for abortion by representing plaintiffs who were denied treatment even though they qualified under Texas law.
Zurawski v. State of Texas is the first case in the nation to represent women who have been denied access to abortion since the US Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to the procedure last June.
“Texas officials claim the bans they passed protect ‘life,’ but there’s nothing pro-life about them,” said Amanda Zurawski, lead plaintiff in the case. “I nearly died as a direct result of the anti-abortion restrictions in Texas. What’s more, they put the lives of my potential future children at risk, as the damage done to my body has already had a negative impact on my reproductive health.”
The Texas Heartbeat Act, or Senate Bill 8, which passed in September 2021, bans abortion after the detection of embryonic cardiac activity, usually after six weeks of pregnancy. The law can be enforced by private citizens, allowing anyone to sue abortion providers or people who “aid or abet” them.
Zurawski experienced preterm rupture of membranes at 18 weeks of pregnancy but was denied an abortion because her doctors could still detect fetal cardiac activity. Her condition worsened and led to a life-threatening infection.
Zurawski and the four other patient plaintiffs claim the state’s abortion laws created an environment of fear among physicians, influencing them not to utilize the “medical emergency” exemption part of the law over concerns of criminal prosecution.
“Texas has harmed our clients and is putting more lives at risk every day—and it must be held accountable,” said Senior Staff Attorney Molly Duane. “Abortion is a necessary and essential part of life-saving reproductive care—and this case clearly shows that.”
The case’s two physician plaintiffs assert that abortion bans prevent them from meeting their ethical obligations as physicians of providing patients with the necessary medical care. They claim the state has failed to provide hospitals, doctors, and medical associations with adequate guidance related to the exemption.
The Center for Reproductive Rights said it is seeking a ruling from the court that clearly permits doctors to use their judgment in providing a pregnant patient with abortion care.