A lawsuit regarding medical emergencies and Texas’ Pro-Life laws was heard in court on Wednesday and Thursday. The Center for Reproductive Rights sued the State of Texas over the Texas Heartbeat Act and Trigger law by using the stories of women and doctors who misunderstood the state’s exception for medical emergencies.
The pro-abortion group is seeking to temporarily halt the current medical emergency exception as the case moves forward. If granted, the temporary injunction would essentially rewrite the law with broad exceptions so more preborn babies can be killed in non-life-threatening situations. The group ultimately hopes the court will strike down the current objective definition for medical emergencies.
Amanda Zurawski, who testified at the hearing, faced a heartbreaking circumstance in which her doctor neglected to follow the standard of care, declining to intervene until she became so sick that she could have died. This was not required by Texas law since there is no qualification in Texas law that a threat to the mother must be “imminent.” Pro-Life policies only require the serious medical risk to be foreseeable. The “medical emergency” definition in Texas law allows intervention by abortion when there is:
“a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.”
Clearly, the harm of such circumstances is not due to Pro-Life legislation but the fault of medical associations and government agencies refusing to do their job as they have for decades and provide proper guidelines and education to physicians.
Pro-Life policies already plainly allow doctors to intervene if the life of the mother will be in jeopardy and do not require physicians to delay necessary care until the danger is imminent in order to treat a mother. However, the lawsuit claims the law is to blame for practitioners being misinformed or misguided.
Three other women who testified had pregnancies in which they received life-limiting diagnoses for their children and therefore wanted an abortion. Preborn babies with critical health conditions are just as worthy of the Right to Life as any other human being. Each child is uniquely beautiful, and they should continue to be honored and protected in law no matter how long or short their lives may be. Texas Right to Life has long promoted perinatal palliative care as the compassionate response to many of these heartbreaking fetal diagnoses.
Dr. Ingrid Skop, a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist of 25 years, testified at the hearing of her firsthand experience that Texas law can be clearly applied as written. She pointed out that doctors in Texas have been able to apply the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (a federal law that requires abortions to be offered in cases when the mother’s life or “a major bodily function” are at risk) for the past 40 years and the state’s medical emergency laws for the past 100 years without confusion and may still clearly do so now.
Dr. Skop also clarified that physicians who are confused about the law have not actually read the law carefully but are unfortunately only relying on false information being circulated by the media. “I think it is clear that the Texas law allows treatment of life-threatening conditions,” Dr. Skop told the court. “It is not the law’s fault.” Skop pointed out that organizations like the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Medical Board have not released clear guidelines for doctors as they typically do but instead have remained silent.
The answer to all of these circumstances is not to “legislate from the bench” and change the law to allow doctors to commit abortions in a broad range of non-life-threatening situations, similar to the broad and unworkable “health” standard of Doe v. Bolton (1973). Rather, medical associations should inform practitioners about what the law actually says and allow them to use the objective standard to care for the life of the mother and preborn child.
Texas Right to Life continues to call for the medical associations to provide guidance and clarification to our medical professionals so our state can keep protecting all preborn children while not needlessly putting their mothers’ lives at risk.