AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday scrutinized efforts to clarify exceptions to the state's abortion ban, which a growing number of women say forced them to continue pregnancies despite serious risks to their health.
The Texas lawsuit is among the biggest challenges to abortion bans in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. In July, several Texas women gave emotional testimony about carrying babies they knew would not survive and doctors unable to offer abortions despite their spiraling conditions.
A judge later ruled that Texas' ban was too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications, but that order was swiftly put on hold after the state appealed.
The decision now rests with Texas' highest court, and during arguments Tuesday, one justice on the all-Republican panel signaled concerns about potentially giving physicians too broad discretion to provide exceptions.
“This very well could open the door far more widely than you're acknowledging,” Justice Jimmy Blacklock said.
A ruling from the court could take months.
The lawsuit does not seek to repeal Texas’ abortion ban but to force more clarity on when exceptions are allowed under the law, which is one of the most restrictive in the U.S. Under the law in Texas, doctors who perform abortions risk life in prison and fines of up to $100,000.
Opponents say that has left some women with providers who are unwilling to even discuss terminating a pregnancy. Among those in the packed court gallery Tuesday were women who joined the lawsuit after being denied abortions, some of whom criticized justices for questioning whether women should instead sue physicians for failing to provide care.
“There was no point to sue my doctor who was already giving me the best care that our state offers. I think it falls back on the legislation," said Kimberly Manzano, who traveled to New Mexico in May for an abortion after doctors said her baby would not survive outside the womb.
Women across the U.S. have continued to file lawsuits challenging abortion restrictions that went into effect in Republican-led states after the Supreme Court overturned Roe last year. What has set the Texas case apart is that the women are believed to be the first in the U.S. to have sued a state and testify over being denied abortion following newly enacted bans.
Paul J. Weber, The Associated Press