A Texas judge granted an emergency request Thursday permitting a pregnant woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis to get an abortion in the state.
Lawyers representing Kate Cox, a 31-year-old pregnant mother of two, filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking the court to forbid Texas officials from prosecuting medical professionals who provide her with an abortion.
The case appears to be the first time a pregnant woman has sought court intervention to obtain an abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, leading more than a dozen states to ban nearly all abortions.
It also comes as the Texas Supreme Court weighs a broader challenge that, if successful, would carve out a more robust medical exception for women across the state.
Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, learned last week her fetus has full trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder with high miscarriage rates and little chance of survival after birth, according to the lawsuit.
Doctors informed Cox continuing the pregnancy would affect her health and fertility, the lawsuit said.
The Texas mother has visited the emergency room several times during the pregnancy.
“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,” Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, a Democrat, said. Cox appeared to tear up as the judge spoke at the end of the virtual hearing Thursday.
A representative for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton didn’t respond to a request for comment. Johnathan Stone, a lawyer with the Texas attorney general’s office, said during the hearing the plaintiffs haven’t shown they would suffer “immediate and irreparable harm” without the emergency order.
Lawyers representing Cox and abortion-rights groups say Texas’ overlapping civil and criminal abortion bans leave limited options for pregnant patients managing medical complications.
While there are medical exceptions to bans, confusion remains over the details and scope that need clarification from the state, said Molly Duane, a lawyer from the Center for Reproductive Rights representing Cox, during the hearing Thursday. This creates uncertainty for physicians about when abortions are allowed in medical emergencies, lawyers say.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday also named Cox’s husband and her doctor, who would provide the abortion, as plaintiffs, seeking to protect them from liability under Texas laws.
“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,” Duane said.
Duane declined after the decision Thursday to detail Cox’s next steps for obtaining an abortion due to safety concerns. “We are working with her to figure out the fastest way to get her abortion care,” she said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said stories such as Cox’s “are becoming all too common” in Republican-led states following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last year.
“No woman should have to go to a court to get the healthcare that she needs,” Jean-Pierre said.
In the broader case challenging the Texas abortion restrictions, plaintiffs said they suffered harrowing pregnancy complications, but their physicians told them their options were limited due to the state’s abortion bans.
Women said they were forced to wait until their conditions deteriorated, travel out of state or carry nonviable fetuses to term.
The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in the case last week.
The state attorney general’s office had appealed a lower court’s ruling that blocked enforcement of bans against women facing serious pregnancy complications in August. Texas First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster called the lower court ruling “an activist Austin judge’s attempt to override Texas abortion laws” in August.
The Travis County judge’s decision Thursday shows the unworkable standards created under these laws, said Rachel Rebouché, the dean of Temple University Beasley School of Law.
“It’s further evidence that the law is not clear,” Rebouché said.
Catherine Lucey contributed to this article.
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