A judge in Texas granted a pregnant woman, whose fetus has a terminal diagnosis, authorization to undergo an abortion on Thursday. This case is a unique one, as it challenges the bans that have been implemented in over a dozen states since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from Dallas, has filed a lawsuit that is thought to be the first instance after the significant ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, where a woman has requested for court approval for an abortion. However, the ruling only pertains to Cox and her lawyers have expressed caution about its broader implications, stating that it is unlikely for numerous other women seeking abortions to now resort to the courts.
Marc Hearron, an attorney representing the Center for Reproductive Rights, expressed disbelief at the idea of this becoming the new standard. He believes that it is unrealistic to anticipate hundreds of lawsuits being filed on behalf of patients.
State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, an elected Democrat, granted a temporary restraining order allowing Cox to have an abortion under what are narrow exceptions to Texas’ ban. Her attorneys said they would not disclose what Cox was planning to do next, citing safety concerns.
Ken Paxton, the Republican Attorney General of Texas, stated that Cox’s case did not qualify for a medical exemption. He did not mention if the state planned to appeal. However, in a letter to three hospitals in Houston, Paxton cautioned that there could be legal repercussions if Cox’s doctor proceeded with the abortion.
Cox, who is currently 20 weeks into her pregnancy, participated in the hearing through Zoom along with her husband, but did not speak to the court. Cox has been informed by medical professionals that if the baby’s heart were to stop beating, inducing labor would pose a risk of uterine rupture due to her previous cesarean deliveries. Additionally, having another C-section at full term could jeopardize her ability to carry future pregnancies.
Gamble expressed shock at the possibility that Ms. Cox, who is eager to become a parent, may not be able to do so because of this law. He believes it would be a true injustice.
The Cox case, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, is believed to be the first of its kind since the landmark ruling of Roe v. Wade was overturned. Following this ruling, 12 other states, including Texas, swiftly implemented strict bans on abortion at various stages of pregnancy. Those who oppose these bans have attempted to diminish their impact, such as in the ongoing case in Texas where it is being argued that the state’s law is too limiting for pregnant women with complications.
“I do not wish to prolong the physical and emotional distress that has accompanied this pregnancy, nor do I want to subject my body or mental well-being to the potential risks of carrying it further,” stated Cox in an opinion piece featured in The Dallas Morning News. “I do not want my child to enter this world and endure unnecessary suffering.”
The temporary restraining order stops Texas from enforcing the state’s ban on Cox and lasts for 14 days. Under the restrictions in Texas, doctors who provide abortions could face criminal charges that carry a punishment of up to life in prison. They could also be fined. Pregnant women cannot be criminally charged for having an abortion in Texas.
Paxton informed the hospitals in Houston that the order would not protect them from potential legal consequences, stating that individuals could still file lawsuits and prosecutors could still press charges.
According to Seth Chandler, a professor of law at the University of Houston, he would be worried as a doctor due to potential legal problems and Paxton’s enthusiastic efforts to uphold the abortion ban in Texas.
“He stated that if he were one of the doctors involved, he would not be able to rest comfortably after performing the abortion.”
Despite the exceptions allowed in Texas, doctors and women have expressed concerns that the requirements are written in such a vague manner that physicians are still hesitant to perform abortions for fear of potential legal consequences.
Government authorities requested that Gamble reject the appeal, contending that Cox has not provided evidence that her life is in immediate peril and thus does not meet the criteria for an exemption to the prohibition.
The ruling was made only 48 hours after Cox submitted the lawsuit.
In August, Cox discovered she was pregnant for the third time. She received news a few weeks later that her baby was at a heightened risk for trisomy 18, a condition with a high chance of miscarriage or stillbirth and low chances of survival, as stated in the lawsuit.
The topic of ending pregnancies due to fetal abnormalities or serious medical issues is rarely brought up in discussions about abortion on a national level. Currently, there are no updated statistics available on the rate of terminations for fetal abnormalities in the United States, but specialists estimate that it accounts for a small portion of overall procedures.
The legal action was initiated one week following the Texas Supreme Court’s deliberation on whether the prohibition is excessively limiting for pregnant individuals with complications. This particular case is one of the most significant and ongoing obstacles to abortion restrictions in the United States, although a decision from the all-Republican court may not be issued for several months.