The Center for Reproductive Rights has “filed lawsuits on behalf of several women and physicians on Tuesday, challenging” Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, “where abortion restrictions have been enacted since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year,” USA Today reports.
There are eight named plaintiffs, a medical association, and four physicians across the three lawsuits, who say that they were denied access to abortions, despite facing severe complications during their pregnancies.
In the Idaho and Tennessee lawsuits, the main issue is around the narrow scope of what circumstances abortions can legally be performed in order to save the mother’s life. This is also part of a larger effort to get clarification on the “‘medical emergency’ exceptions to state abortion bans,” writes CBS.
In a press release, the Center said, “The confusing language and non-medical terminology in these bans have left doctors uncertain when they are legally able to provide abortion care,” continuing, “It’s unclear how sick or near-death a patient must be before a doctor can intervene.”
One lawsuit contends that the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital was in violation of federal law after the doctor of one woman, Jaci Statton, advised her to obtain an abortion when she learned that her pregnancy was not viable. But she was turned away at the emergency room even though it was confirmed that if left untreated, her pregnancy would put her life at risk.
Statton portends that the hospital was in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), under which hospitals who have emergency departments are legally required to care for patients who are experiencing a medical emergency.
The purpose of both lawsuits is not to overturn the bans on abortion. Instead, the goal is to amplify the post Roe v. Wade world experiences of what pregnant women now have to endure in the face of detrimental risks to their own lives, in addition to physicians who fear providing lifesaving healthcare due to the liabilities imposed by these new laws.
These legal challenges are similar to a lawsuit the Center filed in Texas earlier this year, USA Today notes. There, 15 plaintiffs were trying to get clarification on what qualified as a medical exemption in Texas under the abortion law. Ultimately, a judge did rule that the ban was in fact too restrictive, but then Texas officials decided to appeal, so now the injunction is currently on hold.
In a statement, the Center for Reproductive Rights president and CEO Nancy Northup said, “The Supreme Court’s unwarranted reversal of Roe v. Wade has led repeatedly, in multiple states, to women being denied abortion care when they face serious complications in their pregnancies.” “No one should have to be at death’s door to receive essential health care, but that is exactly what happens when doctors are forced to practice medicine under threat of imprisonment,” Northup added.
“Abortion bans across the nation are exposing pregnant people to risks of death, illness, and injury, including loss of fertility,” continued Northup, stating, “The women standing up today survived, but it is only a matter of time before someone does not.”