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Texas Judge Rules Some Bans on Abortion in State Are Unconstitutional

Texas’s restrictive abortion bans are “inconsistent with the rights afforded to pregnant people,” the judge ruled.

Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Molly Duane speaks during a press conference outside the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, on July 20, 2023.

A Texas judge has placed a temporary injunction on some of the state’s abortion restrictions, ruling that physicians shouldn’t be barred from providing abortion services in medical emergencies.

Just hours after that ruling, however, the state attorney general’s office filed an appeal stating that the restrictions will remain in place, pending the state Supreme Court’s decision on the matter.

State District Judge Jessica Mangrum of Travis County issued her ruling on Friday in favor of plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state who said that policies barring abortion services were too restrictive. The plaintiffs included physicians and their patients, who shared harrowing details with the court about their experiences resulting from Texas’s abortion ban.

Those women include:

  • Amanda Zurawski, who developed sepsis after being denied abortion care when her water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy, well before what is considered the time of viability for a fetus;
  • Ashley Brandt, who had to travel out of state to get an abortion after one of the twins she was carrying was diagnosed with a fatal condition;
  • And Samantha Casiano, who described to the court how she was forced to carry a nonviable pregnancy to term, giving birth to a child who died just four hours after being born.

Casiano became physically ill recollecting her ordeal on the witness stand last week, crying and vomiting as she described what she went through as a result of Texas’s draconian abortion laws.

The lawsuit from these individuals and their physicians is believed to be the first one filed by people who were personally impacted by a state’s abortion ban since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights protections last year.

Mangrum found the law to be unconstitutional, saying that the vagueness of its language rendered doctors unable to provide necessary abortion services. In addition to allowing more leeway for abortion providers in emergencies, Mangrum also ruled that her injunction would cover those who have a condition that is “exacerbated by pregnancy” that cannot be treated while they are pregnant, and that it would apply in instances in which the fetus has a condition that makes survival after birth highly unlikely.

“The Court finds that there is uncertainty regarding whether the medical exception to Texas’s 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 wrote in her ruling.

“Enforcement of Texas’s abortion bans as applied to a pregnant person with an emergent medical condition for whom an abortion would prevent or alleviate a risk of death or risk to their health (including their fertility) would be inconsistent with the rights afforded to pregnant people,” Mangrum added.

Mangrum said her injunction would last until spring of next year, when the formal trial would begin. However, right after her injunction was issued, the office of state Attorney General Ken Paxton said that it was filing an “accelerated interlocutory appeal” to the state Supreme Court to immediately block her findings.

“Texas pro-life laws are in full effect. This judge’s ruling is not,” a statement from the attorney general’s office said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, rejected that messaging.

“It’s never been clearer that the term ‘pro-life’ is a complete misnomer,” said Molly Duane, an attorney for the abortion rights organization. “What our plaintiffs went through was pure torture, and the state is hell bent on making sure that kind of suffering continues.”

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