Texas now has three significant abortion bans in place and several administrative regulations governing the procedure, setting up a potential conflict as the largest state to ban abortion navigates this new legal landscape.
The trigger law criminalizes performing an abortion from the moment of fertilization unless the pregnant patient is facing “a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy.” The statute specifically prohibits prosecuting a pregnant patient who undergoes an abortion.
Violations of the law are punishable by up to life in prison. The statute also says that the attorney general “shall” seek a civil penalty of not less than $100,000, plus attorney’s fees.
Elsewhere, the Associated Press has reported a case in which
Weeks after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Dr. Grace Ferguson treated a woman whose water had broken halfway through pregnancy. The baby would never survive, and the patient’s chance of developing a potentially life-threatening infection grew with every hour.
By the time she made it to Pittsburgh to see Ferguson, the woman had spent two days in a West Virginia hospital, unable to have an abortion because of a state ban. The law makes an exception for medical emergencies, but the patient’s life wasn’t in danger at that moment.
“She was just kind of standing on the edge of the cliff,” Ferguson said, “waiting for an emergency to happen or for the baby to pass away.”
In Pennsylvania, at the hospital a four-hour drive away, Ferguson was able to induce labor to end the pregnancy.
A growing number of physicians and families tell similar stories as a post-Roe fear comes to pass: Pregnant women with dangerous medical conditions are showing up in hospitals and doctors’ offices only to be denied the abortions that could help treat them. Some doctors in states with restrictive abortion laws say they’ve referred or suggested more patients go elsewhere than ever. Some women are facing harmful, potentially deadly delays.
Doctors say they’re forced to balance medical judgment with potential punishments, including prison time. Although even the strictest laws allow abortion to save a mother’s life, a weighty question lingers: How close to death must the patient be?
“You don’t automatically go from living to dead,” Ferguson said. “You slowly get sicker and sicker.”
It’s impossible to say when that line is crossed, said Dr. Alison Haddock, who’s on the board of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “There’s just no moment where I’m standing in front of a critically ill patient where I know: OK, before their health was just in danger. But now, their life is in danger,” she said.
Referenda pertaining to abortion were on the ballot in six states in 2022. The three pro-choice measures were passed; the three pro-life measures were defeated. It turns out these were part of not only a pro-choice or pro-abortion rights movement, but of a women's health movement.