Judge temporarily exempts women with complicated pregnancies from Texas abortion ban

Catalina Leano, a licensed vocational nurse at Houston Women?s Reproductive Services, performs an ultrasound with the clinic doctor present, to determine whether the woman is less than six weeks pregnant and eligible to have an abortion in Texas. The patient moved from Virginia a week ago and took a pregnancy test early in the morning and made an appointment at the clinic the same day due to Texas recently enacting the strictest anti-abortion law in the United States, in Houston, Texas, October 1, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Women in Texas with complicated pregnancies will be exempted from a state abortion ban under a temporary injunction issued on Friday, with the judge citing a lack of clarity on the ban’s medical exemptions.

Travis County District Court Judge Jessica Mangrum in her ruling sided with women and doctors who sued Texas over the abortion ban.

“The Court finds that there is uncertainty regarding whether the medical exception to Texas’ abortion bans … permits a physician to provide abortion care where, in the physician’s good faith judgment and in consultation with the pregnant person, a pregnant person has a physical emergent medical condition,” Mangrum said in the ruling.

The temporary injunction will stand until the lawsuit against Texas is complete, unless a higher court intervenes. The injunction is expected to be appealed.

The judge ruled that doctors cannot be prosecuted for application of “good faith judgment” for provision of abortions for physical medical conditions including: those that pose infection risk or make pregnancy unsafe, where the fetus is not likely to survive the pregnancy after birth, and where a medical condition cannot be effectively treated during pregnancy or requires “recurrent pervasive intervention.”

“Today’s ruling alleviates months of confusion around what conditions qualify as medical emergencies under Texas’ abortion bans, giving doctors permission to use their own medical judgment in determining when abortion care is needed,” the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group that brought this lawsuit, said in a statement.

Several women who said they were denied abortions despite grave risk to their lives sued the state of Texas in March, in the first apparent case of pregnant women suing over curbs imposed after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The injunction is effective immediately. The judge set a trial date of March 25.

Abortion was banned with very limited exceptions in Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court last year stripped away national abortion rights. State legislatures are wrestling with how much to restrict or expand abortion access after that decision.

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