Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul today, as part of a coalition of 21 attorneys general, filed an amicus brief to protect Texas patients’ access to emergency abortion care. The multistate coalition filed the brief in the Texas Supreme Court backing the plaintiffs in Zurawski v. Texas, which include Texas patients whose health, fertility and lives were put at risk by Texas’ anti-abortion laws.
Texas’ laws prohibit physicians from providing abortion care except in very narrow circumstances, including when the patient is at risk of death or “substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” The record in the litigation, bolstered by devastating patient accounts of being denied care while experiencing dangerous pregnancy complications, has shown that the language in the Texas law that allows for abortion in limited emergency circumstances is vague. The exception offers little clarity to physicians as to when an abortion is sufficiently necessary to lawfully meet the exception. A physician who makes the wrong call can face severe penalties, including revocation of their medical license and imprisonment. The lawsuit seeks to clarify the scope of the abortion ban’s exception.
In their brief, Raoul and the coalition support the patients’ argument that Texas’ laws endanger the lives and health of pregnant individuals in the state. The coalition further argues that Texas’ laws would also have serious repercussions on the health systems of other states.
“Denying or delaying access to abortion care during a medical emergency only increases the risk that pregnant women will die needlessly from a preventable medical complication,” Raoul said. “Texas’ inhumane laws force patients to leave the state to seek emergency medical care, putting their lives and health at risk and adding strain to health care systems in states, like Illinois, that protect access to reproductive care.”
The lawsuit was originally filed in Texas state court in March. In August, the court issued an order temporarily blocking the application of Texas’ abortion ban in cases of an “emergent medical condition” and providing clarity to physicians about the scope of the law’s medical emergency exception. Texas has appealed the court’s decision to the Texas Supreme Court.
Raoul and the attorneys general argue that preventing medical providers from performing abortions needed to treat emergency medical conditions threatens the health and lives of pregnant patients. Many pregnancy and miscarriage complications are medical emergencies requiring time-sensitive stabilizing treatment that can include abortion. Any failure to provide, or delays in providing, necessary abortion care can put at risk the pregnant patient’s life or health. The brief also explains that when Texas hospitals and providers do not provide emergency abortion care, patients are forced to turn to out-of-state hospitals and providers, placing additional strain on other states’ emergency departments. These departments are often already struggling with overcrowding, long wait times and staff shortages, and added strain can cause more delays and threaten the safety and health of all patients who need emergency care.
Attorney General Raoul was joined in filing the amicus brief by the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.