Texas Supreme Court to hear arguments Tuesday in lawsuit challenging abortion law

Current Texas law bans and criminalizes abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger. However, plaintiffs said the exception is unclear.

Texas Supreme Court to hear arguments Tuesday in lawsuit challenging abortion law

AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit challenging a key part of the state’s abortion law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in March on behalf of Texas women facing serious pregnancy complications who were denied abortions.

“I love Texas and it kills me that my own state does not seem to care whether I live or die,” plaintiff Lauren Hall said during a news conference in Austin earlier this year.

Current Texas law bans and criminalizes abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger. However, plaintiffs said the exception is unclear. They want clarity from the courts on when the procedure is allowed under the law.

“There’s so much confusion about what you can and cannot say,” plaintiff Judy Levison said earlier this year.

She’s a doctor and professor in obstetrics and gynecology in Houston.

Due to the uncertainty over the exception and maximum penalties of 99 years in prison for performing illegal abortions, many doctors fear doing the procedure.

“They have to think, ‘How sick should this person be for me to not be held into court, investigated, going to prison, and risk life in prison?’” Astrid Ackerman, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said on Monday.

After eight months of legal back and forth over that part of the law, the Texas Supreme Court will have the final say on Tuesday.

“It doesn’t overturn the entire law,” said Seth Chandler, Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center. “It’s about these cases in which the pregnancy continuation poses a significant risk to the mother or in which there’s really little prospect that the fetus is going to continue to survive or will last long once born. It’s the issue of, ‘Can the courts basically re-work the statute that the Texas legislature wrote to give the doctor permission to perform abortions in those latter situations?’”

Chandler said he’s seen the Texas Supreme Court take from one month to two years to issue a ruling. He believes this decision could take a while because of the case’s complexity.

KHOU reached out to the Office of the Texas Attorney General, which is defending the state in the lawsuit, but had not heard back as of Monday evening.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed in March, a spokesperson for that office sent KHOU a statement saying in part, “Attorney General (Ken) Paxton is committed to doing everything in his power to protect mothers, families, and unborn children, and he will continue to defend and enforce the laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature.”

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