Of course no one likes the Texas Medical Board’s proposed abortion guidance

This was never a viable path forward. It was and is doomed to fail.

When Sarah Harrison addressed the Texas Medical Board at a virtual hearing Monday, she added her name to the growing list of Texas women who have shared stories of being denied medically necessary abortions.

Her testimony provided a timely example of exactly how confusing the state’s abortion laws can be in action, even to those tasked with enforcing them.

Harrison, an Austin attorney, learned late last year that one of her twins was not going to survive outside the womb. Her doctors advised her to travel out of state for a selective reduction to terminate the nonviable fetus.

On Monday, Harrison asked the medical board to more explicitly inform doctors they can perform selective reductions if continuing the pregnancy threatens the other fetus’ life. She pointed to the part of the law that says it is not an abortion if it is intended to “save the life or preserve the health of an unborn child.”

Stephen “Brint” Carlton, the board’s executive director, corrected her, saying that line applies to things like fetal surgeries and other interventions aimed at saving single pregnancies, not selective reductions of multiples. But then board chair Dr. Sherif Zaafran chimed in, saying that, in general, if a doctor feels a selective reduction is the standard of care and other expert physicians agree, it could potentially be allowed.

Harrison pushed back, saying her doctors did believe a selective reduction to be the standard of care.

“Under threat of criminal prosecution and losing their license, they were not going to provide a reduction because they couldn’t prove that I was at serious risk of losing my life or serious bodily function,” she said.

Later in the hearing, a retired OB/GYN said he didn’t believe Harrison would have qualified for an abortion in Texas. Then, a health lawyer weighed in to say she agreed with Harrison’s interpretation of the law.

“I thought that exception applied until I heard you today,” Louise Joy, an attorney who advises Texas hospitals, said to Carlton. “But that’s the very confusion we have.”

This is but one example of the ongoing confusion among doctors and lawyers about how to interpret the new abortion laws. The medical board has proposed guidance to clarify some of that uncertainty, but five hours of testimony and hundreds of written comments later, it’s clear no one is particularly pleased with their first attempt including, it seems, the medical board itself.

Zaafran said repeatedly that they would consider revisiting aspects of the proposal where doctors’ interpretations of the guidance was at odds with the boards’ intent.

“If the board was perfect, which we’re certainly not, then that would be it,” Zaafran said. “But having 1,000 sets of eyes [helps with] highlighting things that we may have overlooked and blind spots that we may not have been able to highlight.”

See here for the previous update. I’ve been plenty critical of the TMB but it’s not really their fault. They were set up to fail, because the law is both broad and vague and nothing matters except what Ken Paxton and the Supreme Court want it to be. We’re all just going through the motions, and in the end even the nominal result may be nothing: The Board either put forward the existing guidance for a vote, or start the public comment process over, and have more useless hearings like this one. We both know what the only way forward is. The Chron has more.

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4 Responses to Of course no one likes the Texas Medical Board’s proposed abortion guidance

  1. Jeff N. says:

    There was a time in the recent past when vague laws that restricted personal lights would be set aside by courts on the ground they are void for vagueness. Our Supreme Court is largely comprised of smart and honest jurists but it has lacked ideological diversity for a long time. This is a good reason to vote for judicial candidates like Christine Weems. https://www.weemsforjudge.com/

  2. Flypusher says:

    There are 3 seats up for flipping on SCOTX. That alone won’t be enough to fix things, but it’s a good start.

    This shouldn’t be hard. It should be up to the doctor’s judgment and what a patient with a crisis pregnancy does with that advice. Or it wouldn’t be hard if our elected officials actually cared about women’s wellbeing. Like Chuck repeatedly says, we know the way out of this.

  3. Pingback: Texas blog roundup for the week of May 27 | Off the Kuff

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