TX Judge Grants Dubious Exception to Abortion Law

Kate Cox | Image by Kate Cox/Texas Tribune

A Travis County judge granted an emergency order Thursday allowing a Dallas-area mother to obtain an abortion — a decision Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claims does not protect doctors from prosecution under the state’s abortion ban. 

Kate Cox, 31, is about 20 weeks pregnant with a fetus diagnosed with trisomy 18. The rare chromosomal disorder causes a miscarriage or stillbirth in an estimated 95% of pregnancies, and those born with the disorder have a death rate of roughly 90% after one year. An estimated 50% of babies born with trisomy 18 die within a week, but some have lived into their adult years with extensive medical care.

Cox filed a lawsuit against Texas with the Center for Reproductive Rights that claimed a continuation of the pregnancy could put her at risk of medical complications. The lawsuit states she had C-section removals for her first two children, so a potential third instance of the procedure could present a serious risk.

“The idea that Miss 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 said when issuing the temporary restraining order, per The Texas Tribune.

Texas’ abortion ban only allows exceptions when the life of the mother is in danger. 

In a letter responding to the emergency order, Paxton argued that the hospital had not proven Cox was in serious danger. This same is true of the judge’s order, he wrote, which “fails to identify what ‘life-threatening’ medical condition that Ms. Cox purportedly has that is aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy.” 

Paxton’s letter, sent to three Houston hospitals, states that the judge’s order “will not insulate you, or anyone else, from civil or criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws.”

The attorney general is unable to appeal a temporary restraining order. His office would instead need to file a writ of mandamus petition for a higher court to overturn it.

Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, argued the granted emergency order was an attempt to dodge the law.

“Every child is uniquely precious and should continue to be protected in law no matter how long or short the baby’s life may be,” the group said. “The compassionate approach to these heartbreaking diagnoses is perinatal palliative care, which honors, rather than ends, the child’s life.”

The Texas Supreme Court took up a case last week that will determine whether exceptions to the state’s abortion ban should be expanded, as reported by The Dallas Express.

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