Nov 16, 2023 - News

Seven more women join abortion lawsuit against Texas

This group of challengers to Texas' abortion restrictions is now even bigger. Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro/ AFP

Seven more women have joined a legal challenge against Texas' abortion ban, bringing the total number of plaintiffs to 22.

Why it matters: The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is helping represent the plaintiffs, has said that the lawsuit aims to hold Texas "accountable for the consequences of multiple harmful abortion bans on pregnant people facing obstetric complication."

Catch up fast: Five women filed the lawsuit in March in Travis County, alleging that the Texas law prevented them from getting abortions despite the life-threatening circumstances of their pregnancies.

  • Many women have reached out to the plaintiffs since their original filing to share that they experienced something similar.
  • The list of plaintiffs has expanded to 22 women, including several North Texas residents and an OB/GYN from the Fort Worth area who now lives and practices in Hawaii.

What they're saying: The updated petition says Texas is in the middle of a health care crisis because of its abortion bans.

  • "Pregnant people have been denied necessary and potentially life-saving obstetrical care because medical professionals throughout the state fear liability under Texas's abortion bans," the lawsuit alleges.

The other side: "Protecting the health of mothers and babies is of paramount importance to the people of Texas, a moral principle enshrined in the law," the Texas attorney general's office, which is fighting the lawsuit on the state's behalf, said in August.

State of play: Under Texas' abortion ban, which took effect last year, a licensed physician can perform an abortion only if the pregnant person's life is at risk or if the pregnancy "poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function." The provider must also attempt to save the fetus.

Zoom in: Two of the new plaintiffs include Kimberly Manzano, a law librarian in North Texas, and Danielle Mathisen, a doctor from the Fort Worth area.

  • Manzano and her husband were against abortions before becoming pregnant and learning that their baby was unlikely to survive outside the womb, according to the lawsuit.
  • Mathisen was a medical student at UT Southwestern in 2021, hoping to become an OB-GYN and raise a family in North Texas with her husband. After becoming pregnant with their first child, she learned that the baby would have "lethal" fetal conditions.
  • Manzano and Mathisen were among the many women who've had to travel out of state to terminate their pregnancies, the lawsuit says.

What's happening now: Mathisen decided to leave North Texas and practice as an OB-GYN in Hawaii, where abortion remains legal until "viability."

  • "I still feel really let down by Texas. It just makes me mad and sad and angry and guilty because I know there are people in Texas that need the care that I know how to provide. But I cannot give it to them there," Mathisen told the Texas Tribune.
  • She's pregnant again and says she joined the lawsuit to help other women.
  • "If I can provide a voice or a perspective or a story that resonates with one lawmaker that gets them to change their mind, then I want that to happen," she told the Tribune.

What's next: The case is set to be heard by the Texas Supreme Court on Nov. 28, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

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