Texas judge allows woman with risky pregnancy to have abortion
AUSTIN, United States (AFP)— A Texas judge on Thursday allowed a woman with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy to have an abortion in a challenge to the US state’s strict laws prohibiting the procedure.
District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said Kate Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, should be permitted to obtain an abortion under a medical exception provision of the Texas law that allows the procedure when a woman’s health is at risk.
The Texas suit is one of a number brought around the country on behalf of women denied abortions since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June 2022, the case which had granted a constitutional right to the procedure for five decades.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Cox, said the Texas case was believed to be the first in which a pregnant woman was asking a court for an emergency abortion since Roe v Wade was decided in 1973.
The 31-year-old Cox, a mother of two from Dallas-Fort Worth, learned last week that her fetus has full trisomy 18, a fatal genetic condition.
“All of her doctors have told her that the baby will be stillborn or will live for only minutes, hours or days,” attorney Molly Duane said during the emergency court hearing.
Duane said the pregnancy poses multiple health risks to Cox and her future fertility and should fall within the medical exception to Texas’ abortion laws.
“In the state’s eyes, Ms Cox simply isn’t sick enough, isn’t close enough to death, to qualify for the exception,” Duane said. “It is clear that the attorney general of Texas thinks he is better suited to practice medicine than the physicians of his state.”
Johnathan Stone, representing Texas, said the state is “the only party that’s going to suffer an immediate and irreparable harm” if the judge allowed Cox to have an abortion without a full hearing of all of the medical evidence.
“The abortion once performed is permanent and cannot be undone,” Stone said.
That was met with a blistering reply from Duane.
“I would just note that the harm to Ms Cox’s life, health and fertility are very much also permanent and cannot be undone,” she said.
Gamble, after hearing arguments from both sides, said she would grant a temporary restraining order allowing Cox to get an abortion.
“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,” the judge said.
Cox, who attended the virtual court hearing along with her husband, choked up and shed tears as the judge delivered her decision.
Texas authorities are expected to appeal and it is not clear when Cox can actually get an abortion.
A state “trigger” ban went into effect in Texas when Roe v Wade was overturned, prohibiting abortions even in cases of rape or incest.
Texas physicians found guilty of providing abortions face up to 99 years in prison, fines of up to $100,000 and the revocation of their medical license.
The Texas law does allow abortions in cases where the mother’s life could be at risk but physicians have said the wording is unclear and they risk serious legal consequences.
Cox’s physicians had told her their “hands are tied” and she would have to wait until her baby dies inside her — unless the court intervened.
Texas also has a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion.
Cox was joined in her lawsuit by her husband Justin and her doctor, Damla Karsan, who said she was willing to terminate the pregnancy with court approval.
The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments last week in a case brought on behalf of two doctors and 20 women who were denied abortions even though they had serious — in some cases life-threatening — complications with their pregnancies.
The lawsuit argues that the way medical exceptions are defined under the conservative state’s abortion restrictions is confusing, stoking fear among doctors and causing a “health crisis.”
The Texas Supreme Court is expected to soon issue a decision whether to block the state’s abortion bans in cases such as Cox’s.