11.14.2023 (PRESS RELEASE) – Today, seven women who were refused medically necessary abortions joined a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights earlier this year against the state of Texas (Zurawski v. State of Texas). This brings the current number of plaintiffs up to 22 as the case heads to the Texas Supreme Court in late November. Plaintiffs are asking the court to give doctors clarity on what circumstances qualify as “medical emergency” exceptions in the state’s abortion bans and allow doctors to use their own medical judgment without fear of prosecution. The lawsuit argues that the Texas state constitution protects the right to obtain an abortion when facing life or health-threatening conditions.
“This lawsuit started with five women and has grown continuously as more women come forward with their traumatic experiences,” said Molly Duane, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The numbers will continue to grow until the state of Texas gives doctors clarity on who they can help and when. Yet, the Texas government is doubling down on these laws that continue to risk the lives and health of every pregnant person in Texas. All we are asking for is common-sense guidance that will allow doctors to use their good faith judgment without fearing loss of their license and life in prison. We will be at the Supreme Court of Texas fighting for that basic protection at the end of November.”
The conflicting language and harsh penalties in Texas’ abortion bans have resulted in pervasive fear and confusion among doctors as to when they can help patients with severe pregnancy complications. Texas doctors have been turning patients away because they face up to 99 years in prison, at least $100,000 in fines, and the loss of their medical license for violating the abortion bans. This means pregnant Texans are being forced to either wait until they are near death to receive care or flee the state if they are able.
Quotes from new plaintiffs:
“Texas’ abortion ban put my health at risk and would have forced my baby to suffer if I didn’t flee the state,” said Kimberly Manzano, a new plaintiff in the case. “I fought so hard for this pregnancy, but it became clear that my health was in jeopardy and my baby had no chance of survival. I had previously considered myself anti-abortion, but through this my opinion has changed. After many long talks with family, friends, and faith conversations with pastor I found clarity that an abortion was the most compassionate choice for my baby and for myself. This was the most challenging moment of my life–I was brokenhearted, angry, and scared for my own health. In the midst of all that, I was forced to travel far from my home to New Mexico to have the abortion. No one should have to flee Texas to get necessary medical treatment. I hope by joining this lawsuit I can protect others from that agony.”
“It’s not safe to be pregnant in Texas—I say this as both a doctor and a patient,” said Dr. Danielle Mathisen, a new plaintiff in the lawsuit. “During my last year of medical school, while training to become an OB/GYN, my husband and I were thrilled to learn I was pregnant—but at 18 weeks that excitement turned to heartbreak when the baby was given a fatal diagnosis. I was horrified that the law prevented my doctors from giving me treatment I so clearly needed. I had to flee to New Mexico and was worried I might get in trouble or get my doctors or family in trouble. I was made to feel like a criminal for seeking urgent medical care. Texas lawmakers know nothing about medicine and they have created a full-blown public health crisis. I’m joining this lawsuit because nobody should ever be made to feel like a criminal for seeking essential medical care.”
“When my wife was 19-weeks pregnant, we got devastating news–the baby we were expecting had a fatal condition and wouldn’t survive,” said Jacob Lopez, husband of plaintiff D. Aylen. “The only way I could help my wife during this agonizing ordeal was to get her out of Texas. We had to frantically research and call out-of-state clinics, some of which had months-long wait lists. We ultimately had to travel over 2,000 miles round trip to get her essential health care. And we’re talking about health care that was available locally just a couple years ago. It is unforgivable what the state of Texas put my family though, and I am immensely proud of my wife for joining this lawsuit and fighting so others don’t have to suffer like she did.”
You can read about each of the seven new plaintiffs here.
This case was originally filed in March 2023 of behalf of two physicians and five women who were denied abortions in Texas while experiencing severe and dangerous pregnancy complications, and an additional eight patient plaintiffs joined the lawsuit in May 2023. On August 4, following two days of oral arguments and patient testimonies, a district judge issued an injunction blocking Texas’s abortion bans as they apply to dangerous pregnancy complications, including fatal fetal diagnoses, and specified that doctors should use their own medical judgment in such situations. The ruling also denied the state’s request to throw out the case. However, the state immediately appealed the ruling, blocking it from taking effect. The case is now set to be heard by the Texas Supreme Court on November 28, 2023.
Similar lawsuits have recently been filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights in Idaho and Tennessee. The Center for Reproductive Rights is dedicated to helping all people access abortion in their communities, including people who are denied care while facing pregnancy complications. If you have been denied care and want to speak to a lawyer about your options, please reach out to [email protected].
The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Morrison & Foerster LLP, and Kaplan Law Firm on behalf of (i) patients Amanda Zurawski, Lauren Miller, Lauren Hall, Anna Zargarian, Ashley Brandt, Kylie Beaton, Jessica Bernardo, Samantha Casiano, Austin Dennard, D.O., Taylor Edwards, Kiersten Hogan, Lauren Van Vleet, Elizabeth Weller, Kristen Anaya, Kaitlyn Kash, D. Aylen, Kimberly Manzano, Danielle Mathisen, M.D., Cristina Nuñez, and Amy Coronado; and (ii) healthcare providers Damla Karsan, M.D. and Judy Levison, M.D., M.P.H.
MEDIA CONTACT: [email protected]