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Texas Medical Board is Making it Clear That Abortion Ban Allows Emergency Medical Care for Pregnant Women

The Texas Medical Board (TMB) is finally stepping up in attempts to clear the confusion regarding emergency medical interventions for pregnant women in Texas.

Texas outlaws elective abortion from the moment of fertilization, with the only exception for medical emergencies of a pregnant woman. Sometimes, this intervention tragically can involve ending a pregnancy before the preborn child can survive outside the womb. The death of the child is sometimes an unfortunate result of this sort of medical intervention. However, it is critical to note that unlike elective abortion, the intent of these situations is not to end the life of the child, but rather to save the mother. Because of the different intent, these procedures are considered legally and morally different. The law also clarifies that treatment for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy are not considered an abortion, and are thereby allowed in Texas.

While the law is clear, implementation since Roe v. Wade was reversed has been problematic. Liberal media and abortion activists have caused confusion with false accusations against Pro-Life laws. They have wrongfully stated that intervention is not allowed until a woman is at death’s door, unnecessarily putting women’s lives at risk. They have also claimed that women denied abortions in cases where their preborn child was diagnosed with a life-limiting disability should have been entitled to an abortion under the medical emergency definition. Recent pro-abortion legal challenges to Texas law, including Cox v. Texas (2023) and Zurawski v. Texas (2023), seek to conflate two separate issues: risk to the mother and the child’s disability. Anti-Life activists aim to use these lawsuits to expand access to elective abortion in Texas, not just when the mother’s life is threatened.

Because of this malice, Texas Right to Life has urged the TMB to release guidelines interpreting the law for physicians. Until recently, they had refused to do so. Finally, the TMB has issued proposed rules seeking to assure doctors of the law’s language and their ability to act to save a mother’s life or major bodily function if it is threatened.

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Texas Right to Life is glad to see the TMB responding to this need. Thus far, the TMB has drafted good proposed rules that reflect the law as the Legislature intended it – to protect preborn Life while also protecting mothers’ lives and not expanding beyond the agency’s proper role.

However, Texas Right to Life is urging the TMB to make two changes to the proposed rules:

  • Clarify that imminence is not required for a physician to act if he or she can foresee a threat to the pregnant woman’s life or major bodily function. She does not have to be at death’s door, actively dying for a physician to take action.
  • Ensure that cases when a preborn child is given a life-limiting diagnosis are not considered within the medical emergency definition, which our law makes clear.

We are thankful to see the TMB take the first step in interpreting Texas’ straightforward Pro-Life laws to provide mothers and children the best possible care, even in difficult circumstances. Texas Right to Life will continue to monitor these rules and keep you informed as the TMB moves forward in this process. If you would like to submit your own Pro-Life comments on the TMB’s proposed rules, you can do so at the following link until June 1:


LifeNews Note: Ashley Leenerts writes for Texas Right to Life

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