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Reproductive Rights

Texas judge allows woman to get emergency abortion despite state ban

Texas judge allows woman to get emergency abortion despite state ban
Abortion rights supporters protest in front of the Austin Convention Center at the American Freedom Tour in Austin, Texas, USA, 14 May 2022. EPA-EFE/ADAM DAVIS

Dec 7 (Reuters) - A Texas judge on Thursday ruled that a woman with a complicated, likely non-viable pregnancy can get an abortion, in what her lawyers said was the first such case since the US Supreme Court last year allowed states to ban abortion.

Kate Cox, 31,of the Dallas-Fort Worth area filed a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking a temporary restraining order preventing Texas from enforcing its near-total ban on abortion in her case, saying her continued pregnancy threatened her health and future fertility.

Cox’s fetus was diagnosed on Nov. 27 with trisomy 18, a genetic abnormality that usually results in miscarriage, stillbirth or death soon after birth.

Cox, who is about 20 weeks pregnant, said in her lawsuit that she would need to undergo her third Caesarian section if she continues the pregnancy. That could jeopardize her ability to have more children, which she said she and her husband wanted.

“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,” said District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin, Texas, state court, as she granted Cox’s request.

The judge’s ruling applies only to Cox, and does not expand abortion access more broadly.

Cox’s lawyer, Molly Duane of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told reporters on a call after the hearing that Guerra Gamble’s order allowed Cox to obtain the abortion. She declined to provide any details about Cox’s immediate plans, citing concerns for her and her doctors’ safety.

I want to emphasize how unforgiveable it is that Kate had to beg for healthcare in court,” Duane said. “No one should have to do this and the reality is 99 percent of people cannot.”

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not respond to a request for comment. It was not immediately clear what, if any, legal steps the office would take to challenge the order.

The state’s abortion ban includes only a narrow exception to save the mother’s life or prevent substantial impairment of a major bodily function. Cox said in her lawsuit that, although her doctors believed abortion was medically necessary for her, they were unwilling to perform one without a court order in the face of potential penalties including life in prison and loss of their licenses.

Johnathan Stone, a lawyer for the state, said at Thursday’s hearing that Cox had not shown she qualified for the exception. He said showing that would require a more through hearing on evidence, rather than a temporary restraining order.

Cox’s husband, Justin Cox, and Dr. Damla Karsan, who said she would perform the abortion if not for the ban are also plaintiffs in the case.

Karsan is also one of 22 plaintiffs in a separate lawsuit seeking a broader order protecting Texas women’s right to abortions their doctors deem medically necessary, in which the state’s highest court heard arguments last week. The court has not ruled in that case.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Richard Chang and David Gregorio)

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