Texas judge grants pregnant woman permission to get an abortion despite state’s ban

texas judge grants pregnant woman permission to get an abortion despite state’s ban

FILE – Abortion rights demonstrators attend a rally at the Texas state Capitol in Austin, Texas, May 14, 2022. A pregnant Texas woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis asked a court Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, to let her terminate the pregnancy, bringing what her attorneys say is the first lawsuit of its kind in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge on Thursday granted a pregnant woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis permission to obtain an abortion in an unprecedented challenge over bans that more than a dozen states have enacted since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The lawsuit by Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from the Dallas area, is believed to be the first time since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that a woman anywhere in the country has asked a court to approve an immediate abortion.

It was unclear how quickly or whether Cox will receive an abortion. State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, an elected Democrat, said she would grant a temporary restraining order that would allow Cox to have an abortion under what are narrow exceptions to Texas’ ban. That decision is likely to be appealed by the state, which argued that Cox does not meet the criteria for a medical exception.

texas judge grants pregnant woman permission to get an abortion despite state’s ban

FILE – Demonstrators march and gather near the state capitol following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Austin, Texas. A pregnant Texas woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis asked a court Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, to let her terminate the pregnancy, bringing what her attorneys say is the first lawsuit of its kind in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In a brief hearing Thursday, her attorneys told Gamble that Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, went to an emergency room this week for a fourth time since her pregnancy.

Cox and her husband both attended the hearing via Zoom but did not address the court. Doctors have told Cox that if the baby’s heartbeat were to stop, inducing labor would carry a risk of a uterine rupture because of her prior cesareans sections, and that another C-section at full term would would endanger her ability to carry another child.

Gamble said that the law “might actually cause her to lose that ability is shocking and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Cox, has said this lawsuit is believed to be the first of its kind since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Since that landmark ruling, Texas and 12 other states rushed to ban abortion at nearly all stages of pregnancy. Opponents have sought to weaken those bans, including an ongoing Texas challenge over whether the state’s law is too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications.

“I do not want to continue the pain and suffering that has plagued this pregnancy or continue to put my body or my mental health through the risks of continuing this pregnancy,” Cox wrote in an editorial published in The Dallas Morning News. “I do not want my baby to arrive in this world only to watch her suffer.”

Although Texas allows exceptions under the ban, doctors and women have argued that the requirements are so vaguely worded that physicians still won’t risk providing abortions, lest they face potential criminal charges or lawsuits.

State officials had asked Gamble to deny the request, alleging that Cox does not meet the requirements for an exception to the ban.

“There are no facts pled which demonstrate that Ms. Cox is at any more of a risk, let alone life-threatening, than the countless women who give birth every day with similar medical histories,” the state wrote.

Cox has been told by doctors that her baby will likely be stillborn or live for a week at most, according to the lawsuit that was filed in Austin. The suit says doctors told her their “hands are tied” under Texas’ abortion ban.

The lawsuit was filed a week after the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments about whether the ban is too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications. That case is among the biggest ongoing challenges to abortion bans in the U.S., although a ruling from the all-Republican court may not come for months.

Cox had cesarean sections with her previous pregnancies. She learned she was pregnant for a third time in August and was told weeks later that her baby was at a high risk for a condition known as trisomy 18, which has a very high likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth and low survival rates, according to the lawsuit.

In July, several Texas women gave emotional testimony about carrying babies they knew would not survive and doctors unable to offer abortions despite their spiraling conditions. A judge later ruled that Texas’ ban was too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications, but that decision was swiftly put on hold after the state appealed.

More than 40 woman have received abortions in Texas since the ban took effect, according to state health figures, none of which have resulted in criminal charges. There were more than 16,000 abortions in Texas in the five months prior to the ban taking effect last year.

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