AUSTIN (KXAN) — While training to be an obstetrician and gynecologist in Fort Worth, Dr. Danielle Mathisen learned she was pregnant. Her initial excitement sharply turned to heartbreak when she discovered 18 weeks into her pregnancy that her baby had no formed brain structures, only one kidney and a hole in the spine. 

Mathisen’s doctor told her that the baby was unlikely to survive or would suffocate upon delivery. Mathisen and her husband decided to have an abortion.

After learning Colorado clinics were inundated with Texans, Mathisen traveled with her husband to New Mexico, where she received an abortion. 

Kristen Anaya, also from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, went to the hospital when her water broke just over 16 weeks into her pregnancy. 

At the hospital, Anaya began presenting with symptoms of sepsis — spiked fever and uncontrollable shakes — but because the baby still had a heart, the hospitable could not provide an abortion. For 22 hours, Anaya’s symptoms worsened, leaving her vomiting and shaking nearly constantly, until the doctor was able to get permission to perform the abortion.

She spent five days in the hospital recovering from the sepsis infection, according to a press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

These two women, along with five others who could not get abortions despite having dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening, pregnancy complications, joined a lawsuit filed in March against the State of Texas. The lawsuit now has 22 plaintiffs and argues that the Texas Constitution protects the right to an abortion when a pregnancy will lead to life-threatening or health-threatening conditions.

The lawsuit also asked the court to clarify what circumstances qualify as medical emergency exceptions and to allow Texas doctors to make that call without fear of punishment.

“The [plaintiff] 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,” Molly Duane, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a press release. 

In August, a Texas district judge issued a temporary injunction to block the abortion ban for women with severe pregnancy complications. The next day, the Office of the Attorney General filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, thwarting the judge’s ruling from going into effect. 

Texas Abortion Laws 

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Rove v. Wade, Texas had a trigger law that automatically instated an abortion ban. The law prohibits nearly all abortions except for limited circumstances, such as in a “life-threatening condition to the mother caused by the pregnancy.” 

A physician who performs an abortion outside the circumstances detailed in the law could be punished with a sentence of up to life in prison and a $100,000 fine.