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Texas AG appeals judge’s order allowing women with complicated pregnancies to get abortions

Amanda Zurawski, Molly Duane and Ashley Brandt look on as Samantha Casiano addresses the press following the first day of testimony for <i>Zurawski v. State of Texas</i> in Austin on July 19.
Joe Timmerman
The Texas Tribune
Amanda Zurawski, Molly Duane and Ashley Brandt look on as Samantha Casiano addresses the press following the first day of testimony for Zurawski v. State of Texas in Austin on July 19.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include comments from the Texas Attorney General's office, which has appealed the order.

A Texas judge on Friday issued a temporary exemption to the state’s abortion ban that would allow women with complicated pregnancies to obtain the procedure and keep doctors free from prosecution if they determined the fetus would not survive after birth.

But hours later, the attorney general's office filed an appeal with the Texas Supreme Court, blocking the judge's order from taking effect.

State District Court Judge Jessica Mangrum of Austin wrote that the attorney general cannot prosecute doctors who, in their “good faith judgment,” terminate a complicated pregnancy. Mangrum outlined those conditions as a pregnancy that presents a risk of infection; a fetal condition in which the fetus will not survive after birth; or when the pregnant person has a condition that requires regular, invasive treatment.

Last month, the court heard from three women who testified against Texas’ abortion ban, describing how delayed medical care impacted their pregnancies. The women are suing the state over the law, seeking to clarify when a medical emergency justifies an abortion. Currently, the law allows termination of a pregnancy if the mother’s life is in danger.

In her ruling, Mangrum wrote that Senate Bill 8, the law restricting abortion access, was unconstitutional. She said that enforcement of the abortion ban was beyond the legal powers of Texas officials tasked with prosecuting physicians under this law.

In a statement celebrating the injunction, the legal group representing the plaintiffs, the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that the ruling gives clarity to doctors as to when they can provide abortions, allowing them to use their own medical judgment.

“Now people don’t have to be pregnant and scared in Texas anymore. We’re back to relying on doctors and not politicians to help us make the best medical decisions for our bodies and our lives," Amanda Zurawski, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in a statement Friday prior to learning of the state's appeal.

But her celebration of the judge's ruling was short-lived. In a statement late Friday, First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster said the office had appealed, calling the injunction"an activist Austin judge's attempt to override Texas abortion laws."

A trial to determine the issue, clarifying when a medical emergency justifies an abortion, has been scheduled for March 25.

Correction, Aug. 5, 2023 at 2:08 p.m: An earlier version of this story stated that the judge's injunction would remain in effect even if the state appealed the decision. That was incorrect, instead the state's appeal to the Texas Supreme Court blocked the injunction.

From The Texas Tribune

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