Texas Supreme Court rules against woman at center of abortion battle

Kate Cox, a Dallas-area woman who petitioned a Texas abortion judge, has left the state for abortion care after a week of legal whiplash.

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday night temporarily blocked a lower court’s decision that would have allowed Cox to have an abortion under the state’s near-total abortion ban, and later Monday night, reversed the lower court’s decision.

Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two, had an abortion after learning that her fetus had a fatal genetic condition and that carrying the pregnancy to term could jeopardize her future fertility. The case is the first time a pregnant adult has sought court permission to terminate her pregnancy under the abortion ban since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a temporary restraining order on December 7 to allow Kate Coxs doctor to perform abortions in Texas. (Video: AP)

The Coxs’ case was widely viewed as a test case for other abortion litigation around the country. Advocacy groups have tried various ways to reverse or temporarily block the bans, in whole or in part, since the Supreme Court overturned. Roe in June 2022. Recently, several cases have centered on women directly affected by the laws, rather than abortion clinics or doctors.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization representing Cox in the case, said Monday that she could no longer wait for abortion care.

This past week of legal limbo has been hell for Kate, said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. His health is on the line. He was in and out of emergency rooms, and he couldn’t wait any longer.

Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, an elected Democrat, issued a temporary restraining order Thursday to allow Cox to have an abortion under a narrow exception to the state’s ban, which allows abortions in medical emergencies. . But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) asked the Texas Supreme Court to intervene to block Cox from getting an abortion.

Four women describe how they were harmed by Texas’ abortion law

Separately, Paxton in a letter Thursday threatened to take legal action if Cox had the procedure in the state, warning doctors and hospitals that anyone involved in performing an abortion for Cox would face civil and criminal charges. liability that may include first-degree felony prosecutions. He argued that the Coxs’ case did not meet all the elements necessary to fall within an exception to Texas’ abortion laws and that the judge was not medically qualified to make this determination.

The case gained national attention after Cox described in an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News how she decided to have an abortion after learning her fetus had Trisomy 18. Almost all such pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth. childbirth, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Babies who survive often die prematurely.

I just never thought I would be in the situation I am in right now. Twenty weeks pregnant with a baby that would not survive and could jeopardize my health and a future pregnancy, Cox wrote.

He also explained why he was seeking legal approval in Texas for the procedure.

I am a Texan. Why should I or any woman have to drive or fly hundreds of miles to do what we think is best for ourselves and our families, to determine our own futures? Cox said.

Cox went to the emergency room at least three times during her pregnancy, according to the first complaint, experiencing severe cramping, diarrhea, and leaking unexplained fluid. Cox has had two previous Caesarean sections and will likely need a third if she carries this pregnancy to term, according to the complaint, a procedure that doctors say could affect her ability to have more children. in the future.

The state’s highest court found that the situation itself was not a sufficient basis to allow an exception.

Any parent would be devastated to learn their unborn child’s Trisomy 18 diagnosis, the Texas Supreme Court wrote. Some pregnancy complications, however, even severe ones, do not confer an increased risk to the mother that is included in the exclusion.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the leading professional association for OB/GYNs, highlighted the risks Cox faced in an amicus brief filed in court Monday.

In addition to this devastating diagnosis, Ms. Cox faces additional risk factors, according to the group. If forced Ms. Cox to carry her pregnancy to term, her risk factors escalated again.

States where abortion is legal, prohibited or under threat

Doctors and hospitals across the country watched closely as the Coxs’ legal battle unfolded.

In his letter Thursday, Paxton issued the clearest and most credible threat to date to hospitals and doctors following the US Supreme Court ruling. While medical professionals fear what might happen if they provide abortions eventually deemed illegal, no medical professionals have yet been prosecuted under the new abortion bans.

In Texas, a doctor who performs an abortion can be sentenced to life in prison.

This is the most direct confrontation we’ve seen, said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California at Davis who specializes in the politics of reproduction. There was some interest in prosecuting people in the wider abortion support network, but not doctors.

The Texas attorney generals office is likely eager to prevent the Coxs’ case from becoming a blueprint for future litigation across the country, Ziegler added.

Days after Cox filed her lawsuit, a second pregnant woman came forward with a lawsuit challenging Kentucky’s abortion ban. The class-action lawsuit, filed Friday, could have broader implications for abortion access statewide. Instead of appealing just for her abortion, the unidentified pregnant woman is seeking to lift the ban entirely.

Coxs suit is not related to a separate, broader state case, Zurawski v. State of Texas, in which a group of women who experienced pregnancy complications sued the state over its ban on abortion. The women say the state law denied them proper health care and put their lives at risk. The Texas Supreme Court held a hearing on the matter last month.

Pradnya Joshi contributed to this report.

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