Texas judge allows woman with risky pregnancy to have abortion

Austin, Texas - A Texas judge on Thursday allowed a woman with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy to have an abortion in a challenge to the state's strict laws prohibiting the procedure.

A Texas judge on Thursday allowed a woman with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy to have an abortion in a challenge to the state's strict laws prohibiting the procedure.
A Texas judge on Thursday allowed a woman with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy to have an abortion in a challenge to the state's strict laws prohibiting the procedure.  © SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP

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.

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The 31-year-old Cox, a mother of two from Dallas-Fort Worth, learned last week that her fetus has a fatal genetic condition called full trisomy 18.

"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."

Texas Supreme Court rules in favor of Kate Cox amid ongoing Texas abortion debate

Protesters hold up signs during an abortion-rights rally on June 25, 2022 in Austin, Texas.
Protesters hold up signs during an abortion-rights rally on June 25, 2022 in Austin, Texas.  © Sergio Flores/Getty Images/AFP SERGIO FLORES/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP

Cox, who attended the virtual court hearing with her husband, choked up and shed tears as the judge delivered her decision. She is 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.

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.

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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. Texas also has a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion.

Cox's physicians had told her their "hands are tied" and that she would have to wait until her baby died inside her – unless the court intervened.

The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments last week in another 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 soon expected to issue a decision on whether to block the state's abortion bans in cases such as Cox's.

Cover photo: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP

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