AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court examined attempts to clarify exceptions to the state’s abortion ban on Tuesday, as an increasing number of women claim it compelled them to carry pregnancies despite serious health risks.
This Texas lawsuit is a major challenge to abortion bans in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. In July, several Texas women emotionally testified about carrying nonviable pregnancies and doctors unable to perform abortions despite worsening conditions.
A judge later deemed Texas’ ban too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications, but the order was quickly suspended after the state appealed. The final decision now lies with Texas’ highest court, and during Tuesday’s arguments, Justice Jimmy Blacklock expressed concerns about potentially granting physicians too much discretion for exceptions.
“This could open the door more widely than you’re acknowledging,” Justice Blacklock said.
A ruling from the court may take months.
The lawsuit aims to bring more clarity to when exceptions are allowed under Texas’ restrictive abortion law, which doesn’t seek to repeal the ban. According to the law, doctors performing abortions face life imprisonment and fines up to $100,000.
Critics argue that this has led some women to providers unwilling to discuss pregnancy termination. In the court on Tuesday, women who joined the lawsuit after being denied abortions criticized justices for questioning whether women should sue physicians instead.
“There was no point in suing my doctor, who was already providing the best care our state offers. I think it falls back on the legislation,” said Kimberly Manzano, who went to New Mexico in May for an abortion after doctors said her baby wouldn’t survive outside the womb.
Across the U.S., women continue to file lawsuits challenging abortion restrictions enacted in Republican-led states after the Supreme Court overturned Roe last year. The Texas case is notable as the women are believed to be the first in the U.S. to sue a state and testify about being denied abortions following newly enacted bans.