TX Medical Board Discusses Abortion Law Exceptions

Doctor's exam room | Image by Grace Cary/Getty Images

The Texas Medical Board met on Friday to discuss and clarify what constitutes a medical exception regarding the state’s abortion restrictions.

The meeting came on the heels of Texas attorneys and lobbyists Steve and Amy Bresnen petitioning for “clear guidance” on medical exceptions to state abortion laws in January, as reported in The Dallas Express.

The Texas Medical Board is made up of 12 physicians and seven members of the public who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, according to the Texas Medical Board website.

Over the course of the meeting, the board proposed a new rule that defined “medical emergency” as “a life-threatening condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.”

“It’s a horrible situation to be in to see women suffer,” Julie Gutierrez, an OB/GYN, commented to the board.

The board also shared ways for doctors to document why an abortion would be necessary, including the use of medical literature, diagnostic imaging test results, second opinions, or medical ethics committees.

However, some issues were raised by members of the public, such as a few doctors concerned that they could find themselves criminally liable for performing an abortion. The punishment for being found guilty of carrying out an abortion illegally includes losing their medical license, paying a hefty fine, and spending as many as 99 years in prison.

“We’ve all been very aware of the lack of the medical board’s response and guidance, so I think this is a small step,” Dr. Andrea Palmer, an OB/GYN in Fort Worth, said. “It’s going to be darn near impossible to outline every possible exception.”

Some members of the public included women who had already encountered the abortion restrictions firsthand.

For a minimum of 30 days, the Texas Medical Board website allows for public comments on the proposed rules before it is put into place here. Zaafran noted that the board will likely address the rule again in their next June meeting at the earliest.

The two filed the petition weeks after the Texas Supreme Court rejected a woman’s attempt to obtain an abortion exemption.

Texas’ abortion ban was implemented after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, including an exemption for when the mother’s life is in danger. Texas adults still have access to a range of birth control and reproductive health care services through most health insurance plans. Plan B, the emergency contraceptive, remains legal under Texas abortion laws.

In July of 2023, the FDA approved an over-the-counter birth control pill, being the first of its kind, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

In March, the pill that doesn’t require a prescription became available for purchase online. The pill is sold in three and six-month supplies at $49.99 and $89.99. It is also available at most drug stores, including CVS and Walgreens.

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