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Texas Medical Board issues abortion law guidance

The Texas Medical Board unanimously adopted new guidance on how doctors should perform legal abortions under the medical exceptions to the state’s abortion ban.

The rule establishes a seven-day window for doctors after they perform an abortion to document a justification for how the procedure meets the criteria for a medical exception. Abortion is banned in Texas unless a doctor determines a continued pregnancy would put the life of the mother in danger.

“If a woman’s life is in danger there is no uncertainty there,” Texas Medical Board President Sherif Zaafran said. “That is where action should happen quickly.”

Doctors who violate the state’s abortion ban risk losing their medical license, fines of up to $100,000, and a potential life sentence behind bars.

Medical experts testified before the Texas Medical Board in May, arguing that the abortion ban must be more clearly defined so that doctors are not at risk of unintentionally violating the law. Others complained about the proposed documentation requirements to perform an abortion at the time, which a Houston OB/GYN described as “truly unworkable.”

While the documentation guidance ended up getting issued, the Texas Medical Board did remove one provision in its final guidance on Friday. The provision would have required doctors to attempt to transfer a woman to another facility to seek treatment outside of an abortion. Nevertheless, the board did not address specific examples of when an abortion meets the medical exception to the law.

“There are certain things that we can address and there are certain things that we ultimately don’t feel that we have the authority to address,” Zaafran said, according to The Texas Tribune.

The ongoing debates about the abortion ban at the Texas Medical Board followed a January petition from ​​Texas attorneys and lobbyists Steve and Amy Bresnen that pleaded for “clear guidance” on medical exceptions to the law.

Dr. Ingrid Skop, a member of the Texas Health Department’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee, said the confusion among doctors about the abortion ban was in part a result of poor guidance from pro-abortion medical organizations.

“Texas women are often not receiving quality care due to physician fear and misunderstanding of the laws,” Skop testified before the Texas Medical Board in May.

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