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More women sue Texas saying the state's anti-abortion laws harmed them

People at a podium in front of the Texas Capitol
Patricia Lim
In March 2023, five women and two doctors sued the state of Texas over its abortion bans, saying they were putting patients at risk. Eight additional plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit as of May 22.

Eight more women are joining a lawsuit against the state of Texas, saying the state's abortion bans put their health or lives at risk while facing pregnancy-related medical emergencies.

The new plaintiffs have added their names to a lawsuit originally filed in Marchby five women and two doctors who say that pregnant patients are being denied abortionsunder Texas law despite facing serious medical complications. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the women, is now asking for a temporary injunction to block Texas abortion bans in the event of pregnancy complications.

"What happened to these women is indefensible and is happening to countless pregnant people across the state," Molly Duane, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

The new group of women brings the total number of plaintiffs to 15. The lawsuit, filed in state court in Austin, asks a judge to clarify the meaning of medical exceptions in the state's anti-abortion statutes.

The Texas "trigger law," passed in 2021 in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, makes performing an abortion a felony, with exceptions for a "life-threatening physical condition" or "a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function."

Another Texas law, known as S.B. 8, prohibits nearly all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. That ban, with a novel enforcement mechanism that relies on private citizens filing civil lawsuits against anyone believed to be involved in providing prohibited abortions, took effect in September 2021 after the Supreme Court turned back a challenge from a Texas abortion provider.

In an interview with NPR in April, Jonathan Mitchell, a lawyer who assisted Texas lawmakers in crafting the language behind S.B. 8, said he believed the medical exceptions in the law should not have prohibited emergency abortions.

"It concerns me, yeah, because the statute was never intended to restrict access to medically-necessary abortions," Mitchell said. "The statute was written to draw a clear distinction between abortions that are medically necessary and abortions that are purely elective. Only the purely elective abortions are unlawful under S.B. 8."

But many doctors in Texas and other states with similar laws that have taken effect since last year's Supreme Court decision say they feel unsafe providing abortions while facing the threat of substantial fines, the loss of their medical licenses, or prison time.

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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.
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