On Thursday, a Texas judge made a ruling allowing a pregnant woman, Kate Cox, who had filed a lawsuit against the state seeking a court-ordered abortion, to legally terminate her pregnancy. This decision is a significant development in the ongoing discussion around the state’s strict ban on abortions after six weeks, considered one of the strictest in the nation.
Kate Cox, who is currently 20 weeks pregnant, filed the lawsuit in an Austin state district court this week. She sought a temporary block on the state’s abortion ban because she faced challenges in obtaining the procedure, fearing that it might violate the law. Cox’s baby has been diagnosed with trisomy 18, and it is not expected to live more than a few days outside the womb, as mentioned in the lawsuit.
Following the court’s decision, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cautioned the physician responsible for Kate Cox’s court-ordered abortion, stating that there could be civil and criminal penalties in the future.
According to the New York Times, Cox’s lawsuit is reportedly one of the first in the nation where someone is requesting a court-ordered abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
Kate Cox, 31, has faced severe cramping and unidentifiable fluid leaks, leading her to visit three different emergency rooms in the last month, according to her lawsuit. Having undergone two prior cesarean surgeries (C-sections), the suit emphasizes that continuing the pregnancy poses a high risk of severe complications threatening her life and future fertility, including uterine rupture and hysterectomy.
During an emergency hearing on Thursday, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against the state, allowing Kate Cox to have an immediate abortion.
In the hearing held over Zoom, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble expressed concern over the potential impact of the law on Mrs. Cox’s desire to become a parent. She emphasized, “The idea that Mrs. 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 announced that she would sign the order promptly.
Both Kate Cox and her husband attended the Zoom hearing, and they became emotional as the judge made her decision, visibly wiping away tears.
Molly Duane, Cox’s attorney, mentioned that they are actively working to determine the quickest way to provide Kate Cox with abortion care. However, she did not disclose specific details for the safety of her client, her family, and the physician involved.
Molly Duane, Kate Cox’s attorney, emphasized that the legal battle is far from over, clarifying that the recent ruling applies solely to Cox and does not “restore access” to abortion for thousands of other women. Duane criticized the state’s argument as “callous in the extreme,” asserting that they seem indifferent to whether people live or die as long as they are compelled to give birth.
Marc Hearron, an attorney representing the Center for Reproductive Rights, expressed concern about the situation becoming the new normal. He noted that it’s unrealistic to expect hundreds of similar cases to be filed on behalf of patients.
In a letter threatening future legal action, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that Kate Cox has not demonstrated a “life-threatening” medical condition related to her pregnancy, nor has she shown that her symptoms put her “at risk of death” or major bodily harm.
The letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was directed to three Houston hospitals, where Kate Cox’s physician holds privileges, as indicated by the Texas Medical Board. Paxton’s office released the letter to the media, and CNN has sought responses from the hospitals.
In the letter, the state attorney general cautioned the hospitals that the recent ruling on Thursday “will not insulate you, or anyone else, from civil and criminal liability.” This includes the possibility of facing first-degree felony prosecutions and civil penalties of at least $100,000 for each violation.
Paxton clarified in the letter that the ruling does not prevent private citizens from taking civil action, referencing Senate Bill 8, the contentious Texas law that permits individuals to sue those involved in performing or facilitating abortion.