AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge ruled Friday that the state’s ban on abortion proved too restrictive Women with serious pregnancy complications and must allow exceptions without physicians having to fear criminal charges.
The ruling is the first to undermine Texas law since it went into effect in 2022, and gives abortion-rights advocates watching the case a major victory as a possible blueprint to weaken restrictions elsewhere that Republican-led states have been so quick to implement.
“For the first time in a long time, I cried with joy when I heard the news,” lead plaintiff Amanda Zurawski said in a statement. “That’s exactly why we did it. So we keep enduring the pain and trauma to share our experiences and the harm caused by these terrible laws.”
The lawsuit is believed to be the first in the US filed by women who have been denied abortions since the Supreme Court last year fell Roe v. calfwhich upheld the constitutional right to abortion for nearly 50 years.
The state is expected to appeal swiftly and has argued that the Texas ban already allows for exceptions, calling doctors’ fears of prosecution unfounded.
“Today’s ruling should prevent other Texans from suffering the unimaginable trauma that our plaintiffs suffered,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which helped file the lawsuit. “It would be unreasonable for the State of Texas to appeal this decision.”
The immediate impact of District Judge Jessica Mangrum’s decision was unclear in Texas, where all abortion clinics closed last year. During two days of emotional testimony in an Austin courtroom, women gave harrowing accounts of learning their babies would not survive delivery and being unable to travel long distances in states where abortion is still legal is.
The court made it clear: Doctors must be able to offer patients standard care in the event of pregnancy complications. That standard of care in certain cases is abortion because it is life-saving healthcare. This decision is a victory for Texans with pregnancy complications, however, Texas still denies abortion rights to the vast majority of those who desire it.”
The lawsuit, filed in March, is not intended to overturn Texas’ abortion ban, but to force more clarity on when exceptions are allowed under the law, which is among the most restrictive in the United States
Under Texas law, doctors who perform abortions face life imprisonment and fines of up to $100,000. Opponents say this has left some women with providers who don’t even want to discuss abortion.
The majority of adults in the US, including those living in states with the toughest abortion restrictions, want abortions to be legal, at least in the early stages of pregnancy. according to a survey published in late June by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.