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Texas abortion bans are back in place after state appeals judge's order

The Center for Reproductive Rights brought the lawsuit on behalf of 13 women and two doctors. The women had pregnancy complications that endangered their lives or had fetuses with fatal anomalies.
Sarah McCammon
The Center for Reproductive Rights brought the lawsuit on behalf of 13 women and two doctors. The women had pregnancy complications that endangered their lives or had fetuses with fatal anomalies.

Updated August 5, 2023 at 5:45 PM ET

The Texas attorney general's office has filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court, effectively blocking a judge's hours-old order that temporarily lifted a ban on emergency abortions.

A day earlier, a Texas district judge had ruled in favorof a group of women and doctors who sued the state over medical exceptions in its abortion laws. The women argued that medical exceptions in the state's abortion bans lack clarity, putting patients in danger during medically complicated pregnancies.

The appeal blocks the judge's ruling in favor of the patients and doctors, for now, kicking the decision to the all-Republican state Supreme Court.

"Texas pro-life laws are in full effect," the attorney general's office said in a press release on Saturday. "This judge's ruling is not."

In her ruling, Travis County District Judge Jessica Mangrum wrote that "uncertainty regarding the scope of the medical exception and the related threat of enforcement of Texas's abortion bans" creates a risk that doctors "will have no choice but to bar or delay the provision of abortion care to pregnant persons in Texas for whom an abortion would prevent or alleviate a risk of death or risk to their health...for fear of liability under Texas's abortion bans."

The judge had issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the laws from being enforced against health care professionals who provide abortions in emergency medical situations based on their "good faith judgment."

The decision followed an emotional hearing last month in which several women described struggling to navigate emergency medical decisions about pregnancies that doctors said endangered their health.

The lawsuit on behalf of 13 patients and two doctors was filed earlier this year.

The injunction had also applied to pregnancies with fatal fetal anomalies, which are not explicitly mentioned in Texas's abortion bans. Samantha Casiano testified about her experience carrying a fetus with anencephaly — the brain and skull do not fully develop — to term. She gave birth to a daughter who lived four hours, and she described watching her daughter gasp for breath during that short life and death.

Mangrum's ruling specified that any pregnancy with "a fetal condition where the fetus is unlikely to survive the pregnancy and sustain life after birth" is also entitled to abortion care in Texas.

An attorney leading the case challenging the state abortion law called the attorney general's decision to appeal a ruling aimed at saving lives "appalling."

"It's never been clearer that the term 'pro-life' is a complete misnomer," said Molly Duane, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. "What our plaintiffs went through was pure torture, and the state is hell bent on making sure that kind of suffering continues."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
Emma Bowman
[Copyright 2024 NPR]