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Mothers and doctors challenge abortion law at Texas Supreme Court; ABC-7 examines mental health impacts

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- A decision in a lawsuit involving an exemption to Texas' abortion law could be coming soon -- or next summer. Oral arguments concluded yesterday in the case Zurawski v. Texas -- in which a group of mothers with extreme medical complications claim they were put in extremely dangerous situations -- because doctors were afraid to be punished for abortion procedures under state law.

The plaintiffs consist of over 19 women who experienced severe medical complications connected to childbirth. They claim that Texas laws on abortion are unclear in some areas, and as a result, medical experts are hesitant to take action -- afraid of the legal consequences. The Center for Reproductive Rights is looking gain clarity through this court case.

ABC-7's Be Mindful correspondent Avery Martinez brings us Xtra Depth on the mental health aspect of this continuing case. He is a former legal correspondent, and says oral arguments are a chance for judges to ask questions with attorneys.

Lack of clarity in Texas' law over abortion procedures is a main argument.

Under the existing language of the law, doctors could face a number of penalties for abortion procedures depending on the circumstances. The patients and doctors involved claim that fear and gray areas in the law led medical professionals to refuse emergency abortion procedures.

That in turn endangered their lives, put them in extreme distress -- and impacted their mental and physical health. A lawyer representing this group says one woman was told by her medical professionals they would not perform life-saving operations -- and advised them to go out of state.

Texas Alliance for Life, which was directly involved in the legislation around abortion laws in Texas says their stance on the law is on ethical concerns -- and worries that a special interest group is trying to circumvent legislation passed by elected representatives through the courts.

Mental health for women can be directly impacted by childbirth -- most famously through postpartum depression. It can happen to any woman -- even after a miscarriage or stillbirth. Research from the National Institutes of Health show that as many as 20% of mothers can experience postpartum symptoms.

A coalition of attorneys general -- including New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and over a dozen other states have filed briefs in the case. These attorneys say that the Texas law endanger lives and the health of pregnant women because of the extreme ban of the law.

Avery Martinez covers mental health in the Borderland as part of ABC-7’s Be Mindful initiative. He is also a Report for America corps member. RFA places talented, emerging journalists in newsrooms like ABC-7’s to report on under-covered issues and communities. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.

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