The administration of United States President Joe Biden has spoken out in support of a recently filed lawsuit against Texas’s abortion ban, led by five women who were denied reproductive healthcare in the state.
On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris issued a statement calling the women’s stories “devastating”.
“As the President and I have long made clear: taking away the right of women to make their own reproductive health care decisions endangers women’s health, with potentially life-threatening consequences,” Harris said.
The lawsuit, filed late on Monday, seeks an injunction against Texas’s abortion ban because of what it calls “uncertainty” in the law’s language.
Currently, Texas has a near-total ban on abortion, enacted under Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), which took effect in September 2021. But the law includes an exception for medical emergencies.
Monday’s complaint, however, says the exception is poorly defined, which has “caused and threatens to cause irreparable injury” to pregnant individuals unable to receive life-saving care.
“With the threat of losing their medical licenses, fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and up to 99 years in prison lingering over their heads, it is no wonder that doctors and hospitals are turning patients away — even patients in medical emergencies,” the lawsuit explains.
The plaintiffs have called on the District Court in Travis County, Texas, to issue guidance “clarifying the scope” of the exceptions to the state’s abortion laws.
While challenges to abortion bans are relatively common in the US, this is believed to be the first instance where pregnant women have led a lawsuit against the limitations since the Supreme Court decision to strike down Roe v Wade in June 2022.
That decision ended the constitutional right to abortion, which had been in effect for nearly 50 years.