In its ruling, the Texas Supreme Court sided with the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, who argued that exceptions to the bans were legal only when the health or life of the mother was seriously threatened, and Ms. Cox’s case did not appear to meet that standard, based on the arguments presented.
The court said that the law allowed for abortions based on a doctor’s “reasonable medical judgment.” If doctors remained confused, the court said, the Texas Medical Board could step in with guidelines.
But doctors have said that the risk of performing an abortion that they believed to be necessary but that could later be questioned by the state presented them with a stark choice: Go ahead with the procedure and risk felony prosecution, or wait until a woman’s health deteriorates to the point that no one would question the medical need.
This week’s ruling, which applied only to Ms. Cox’s current pregnancy, provided little solace for abortion rights advocates who are waiting for the court, whose nine elected members are all Republicans, to rule in a separate but related case.
That case, Zurawski v. Texas, is aimed at resolving confusion about medical exceptions more generally, and at allowing doctors to perform abortions that they deem medically necessary, and within the bounds of the law, without the fear of civil or criminal punishment.