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Texas Supreme Court Upholds Near-Total Abortion Ban, Leaving Critics Disappointed

In a unanimous decision, the Texas Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge from 20 women and two doctors who were seeking clarity on the state’s controversial near-total abortion ban and its exception for medical emergencies. The plaintiffs, who stated that the exception was unacceptably vague, had accused the law of putting them in danger and frightening healthcare providers.

Justice Jane Bland, speaking on behalf of the entirely Republican court, said the state’s law permits an abortion to save a woman’s life under certain conditions. A doctor should intervene if there’s a risk of the woman’s immediate death or serious physical harm before it becomes imminent, while using "reasonable medical judgment". However, abortions cannot be performed for foetuses with diagnosed life-limiting conditions, except if the mother’s life is also threatened, according to the court’s judgement.

Violators of the law face penalties including up to 99 years in prison, fines of $100,000, and potential license revocation. Amanda Zurawski, the lead plaintiff in the suit, expressed her disappointment in response to the decision, calling it "a gut punch." Her case involved preterm premature rupture of membranes, leading to her spending several days in the intensive care unit as medical professionals refused to perform an abortion once a foetal heartbeat could be detected.

19 other plaintiffs had equally harrowing experiences in obtaining necessary abortions. These women carried risky pregnancies or carried nonviable foetuses, with some ultimately resorting to travelling out of state and some delaying treatment until they reached an emergency state. One of the plaintiffs, Samantha Casiano, lost her baby shortly after its birth due to inability to obtain an abortion in a timely manner.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, known for his opposition to abortion, claimed he would continue to defend Texas’ laws and protect mothers and babies. However, his stance was met with criticism for subjecting women to potentially dangerous ordeals. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national anti-abortion organization Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America, welcomed the ruling, emphasizing that doctors can still offer healthcare to women with emergency medical conditions according to pro-life laws, albeit with a painful example of a woman denied that care.

The pro-choice advocacy group, the Center for Reproductive Rights, represented the plaintiffs in this case, marking it as the first time pregnant women directly targeted anti-abortion laws after the US Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to an abortion last year. Legal actions like this have also been taken up in other states with restrictive abortion regulations, such as Idaho and Tennessee, potentially setting a precedent across emergency rooms nationwide. In an earlier case in December involving a high-risk pregnancy, Texas Supreme Court ruled against a woman who tried to obtain an abortion out-of-state. A ruling for that case is expected next month.