The temporary lifting of the Texas abortion ban applies solely to medical emergencies.
A judge, Jessica Mangrum, ruled that women in Texas facing serious pregnancy complications will have a temporary exemption from the state’s abortion ban.
The legislation lacked clarity, leading the judge to side with women and doctors who had sued Texas over the ban. Doctors will not be prosecuted when making decisions in “good faith” regarding abortion provisions. The temporary injunction will remain in effect until the lawsuit is resolved.
This ruling is likely to be appealed by the state. The Texas law, enacted in 2022 after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision was overturned, is known as one of the strictest abortion bans in the US.
The case is the first representing women denied abortions since the change, with the plaintiffs seeking to modify the ban to grant doctors more discretion in determining the necessity of abortions.
In her ruling in the city of Austin, Judge Mangrum wrote that women were “delayed or denied access to abortion care because of the widespread uncertainty regarding physicians’ level of discretion under the medical exception to Texas’s abortion bans”.
She also said that doctors must be allowed to determine what constituted medical emergencies that would risk a woman’s health or even life.
The temporary injunction is intended to last until the lawsuit is decided. But under Texas law, a ruling is automatically stayed as soon as it is appealed, so it could be blocked once the state appeals.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is suing Texas, hailed the ruling.
“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 group said.
Lead plaintiff Amanda Zurawski said that “For the first time in a long time, I cried for joy when I heard the news”.
Ms. Zurawski says her life was put at risk last year when she was denied an abortion.
The lawsuit filed last March against Texas presses for a binding interpretation of the medical emergencies in the current law.
The Texas attorney general’s office argues that the exceptions being pushed by the plaintiffs would effectively allow ways of bypassing the ban.
“It would, for example, permit abortions for pregnant females with medical conditions ranging from a headache to feelings of depression,” office lawyers say.