In an exception to the state's restrictive abortion law, a Texas judge on Thursday granted permission for a woman to abort the abnormal fetus she has been carrying for 20 weeks.
Kate Cox's unborn baby has been diagnosed with trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder that almost universally results in miscarriage, stillbirth, or death within a year of birth. Also called Edwards' syndrome, the condition causes a variety of abnormalities, affecting the skull, heart and other organs. Of those who make it to birth, less than 10% survive a year, and frequently have major intellectual impairments. Cox's lawyers say she's had to make four emergency room visits to address pain and discharge.
"It is not a matter of if I will have to say goodbye to my baby, but when," said Cox in a statement. "I'm trying to do what is best for my baby and myself, but the state of Texas is making us both suffer."
Her lawyers argued that an abortion is needed to protect Cox -- who's had two prior C-sections -- from a dangerous birth that could damage her fertility. “Continuing the pregnancy puts her at high risk for severe complications threatening her life and future fertility, including uterine rupture and hysterectomy,” they said in filing the suit.
“The idea that Ms. Cox wants desperately to be pregnant, and this law might actually cause her to lose that ability, is shocking, and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice,” said Judge Maya Guerra Gamble as she ruled in Cox's favor.
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v Wade and rightfully returned abortion governance to the individual states, many conservative state legislatures raced to impose restrictions. Texas has banned nearly all abortions, with exceptions limited to situations where it's needed to save the mother's life or safeguard her from “substantial impairment of major bodily function.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton doubled down on enforcing the law, immediately firing off a letter to three Houston hospitals warning that the judge's order would "not insulate hospitals, doctors, or anyone else, from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws." The hospitals are the ones where a doctor who has committed to performing the abortion for Cox has admitting privileges.
To read the letter, see below. pic.twitter.com/tCZMSDGqMB— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) December 7, 2023
The letter also spelled out Paxton's reasoning for concluding that the restraining order was wrongly granted. His office, which may appeal the ruling to a higher court, warned the hospitals that the temporary restraining order "will expire long before the statute of limitations for violating Texas' abortion laws expires."
Doctors performing illegal abortions in Texas face sentences of up to life in prison, and the law also requires the state attorney general to pursue a civil penalty of at least $100,000. Critics say the abortion law's language regarding medical exceptions is so vague as to leave doctors fearful of suffering severe consequences even where they're confident of the medical necessity.
Those defending ambiguous medical exceptions in abortion bans regularly suggest that the problem is not the ambiguities, but doctors narrowly construing them.— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) December 7, 2023
And yet, here’s Texas AG Ken Paxton threatening doctors with civil and criminal liability for FOLLOWING A COURT ORDER. https://t.co/t3G9BW9LvQ