Texas judge allows woman to get emergency abortion despite state ban

Cox's foetus was diagnosed on Nov 27 with trisomy 18, a genetic abnormality that usually results in miscarriage, stillbirth or death soon after birth

Reuters
Published : 7 Dec 2023, 06:19 PM
Updated : 7 Dec 2023, 06:19 PM

A Texas judge on Thursday ruled that a woman with a complicated, likely non-viable pregnancy can get an abortion, in what her lawyers said was the first such case since the US Supreme Court last year allowed states to ban abortion.

The plaintiff, Kate Cox, had asked the court in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday for a temporary restraining order preventing Texas from enforcing the state's near-total ban on abortion in her case, saying her continued pregnancy threatened her health and future fertility.

Cox's foetus was diagnosed on Nov 27 with trisomy 18, a genetic abnormality that usually results in miscarriage, stillbirth or death soon after birth.

Cox, who is about 20 weeks pregnant said in her lawsuit that she has had two previous Caesarian sections and would need a third one if she continues the pregnancy. That could jeopardize her ability to have more children, which she said she and her husband wanted.

"The idea that Ms. Cox wants desperately to be a parent, and this law might actually cause her to lose that ability, is shocking and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice," said District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin, Texas, state court, as she granted Cox's request.

"Today's decision underscores what we already know - abortion is essential health care," Cox's lawyer, Molly Duane, said in a statement after the hearing. "While we are grateful that Kate will be able to get this urgent medical care, it is unforgivable that she was forced to go to court to ask for it in the middle of a medical emergency."

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not immediately clear what, if any, legal steps the office could take to challenge the order or prevent it from taking effect.

The state's abortion ban includes only a narrow exception to save the mother's life or prevent substantial impairment of a major bodily function.

Johnathan Stone, a lawyer for the state, said at Thursday's hearing that Cox had not shown she qualified for the exception. He said showing that would require a more through hearing on evidence, rather than a temporary restraining order.

Cox's husband, Justin Cox, and Damla Karsan, an OBGYN who said she would perform the abortion if not for the ban are also plaintiffs in the case.

Karsan is also one of 22 plaintiffs in a separate lawsuit seeking a broader order protecting Texas women's right to abortions their doctors deem medically necessary, in which the state's highest court heard arguments last week. The court has not ruled in that case.

Keywords: abortion, Texas, US, Kate Cox

CAPTION: A few abortion rights demonstrators remain in the crowd after hours of public comments and discussion as Denton’s city council meets to vote on a resolution seeking to make enforcing Texas’ trigger law on abortion a low priority for its police force, in Denton, Texas, June 28, 2022. REUTERS/Shelby Tauber