AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, a Texas district judge issued a temporary injunction blocking elements of Texas’ abortion ban for people with severe pregnancy complications.

The ruling clears things up for doctors on when they can provide abortions. Those cases include medical conditions that a pose a risk of infection or unsafe pregnancy that could pose a risk to the mother’s health, medical conditions that are exacerbated by pregnancy and fetal conditions where the fetus is unlikely to survive.

In March, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state on behalf of five Texas women after they said they were denied abortion access, despite having pregnancy complications that risked their lives or the life of their baby.

“The Court finds that there is uncertainty regarding whether the medical exception to
Texas’s abortion bans… permits a physician to provide abortion care where, in the physician’s good faith judgment and in consultation with the pregnant person, a pregnant person has a physical emergent medical condition,” the ruling states.

The judge found that the women each had emergent medical conditions that risked their health and they were “delayed or denied access to abortion care because of the widespread uncertainty regarding physicians’ level of discretion under the medical exception to Texas’s abortion bans,” the ruling states.

“After much confusion around what conditions qualify as ‘medical emergencies’ under Texas’ abortion bans, today’s ruling gives clarity to doctors as to when they can provide abortions and allows them to use their own medical judgment,” the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a press release.

The ruling is automatically stayed as soon as it is appealed, meaning the injunction will be temporarily blocked if and when the state appeals, the release states.

KXAN reached out to the abortion law’s author — Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola — for comment but did not immediately hear back.

Current Texas abortion laws

Once the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer, Texas was one of 13 states where abortion bans were automatically instated. Texas’ trigger law prohibits all abortions except under limited circumstances, such as a “life-threatening condition to the mother caused by the pregnancy.” Physicians who perform an abortion outside of these circumstances could be subject to a sentence of up to life in prison and at least a $100,000 fine for each offense.

Authors of the legislation said the state’s trigger law works in concert with Texas’ 2021 law, known as Senate Bill 8 — which allows private citizens to sue providers or anyone who aids and abets abortions that occur after six weeks.

According to an August 2022 letter submitted as evidence in the lawsuit, Hughes wrote the Texas Medical Board, asking to issue guidance for physicians to ensure women are able to get life-saving care when experiencing pregnancy complications.

In his letter, he cites “egregious” examples of women who were denied care after experiencing complications like an ectopic pregnancy.

Hughes goes on to cite current Texas code, which defines a medical emergency as “a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.” 

The lawsuit did not seek to overturn the laws altogether. Instead, plaintiffs asked the court to allow physicians to make exceptions to Texas laws and to clarify under what circumstances they can do so.