On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court intervened in a lower court’s decision that would have allowed a pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy, which was in conflict with state law.
Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two, was at the center of this legal battle. She had successfully obtained a temporary injunction against the State of Texas, challenging the enforcement of the Texas Heartbeat Act, which prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, typically around six weeks.
However, the state Supreme Court stayed this temporary injunction on Friday, pending a review of the case’s merits.
“Without regard to the merits, the Court administratively stays the district court’s December 7, 2023 order … The petition for mandamus and motion for temporary relief remain pending before the Court,” the court’s order stated.
Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, sought an abortion due to health complications. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), representing Cox, explained that her unborn baby has a genetic condition, Trisomy 18, which leads to multiple structural abnormalities and little chance of survival, putting her health at risk.
“Cox has already undergone two C-sections. If she was forced to stay pregnant, she would likely need a third, placing her at high risk for multiple serious medical conditions such as uterine rupture and hysterectomy,” the CRR said in a statement. “She and her husband wish to have more children, and undergoing another C-section to deliver this pregnancy would lessen the likelihood that she’d be able to safely have more children in the future.”
In the temporary injunction, Democratic Presiding Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the District Court of Travis County ruled in favor of Cox.
“Cox’s life, health, and fertility are currently at serious risk and she needs a dilation and evacuation (“D&E”) abortion immediately … The longer Ms. Cox stays pregnant, the greater the risks to her life,” Gamble wrote.
Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, named as a defendant in the case, issued a press release warning physicians of the legal risks of performing the abortion. He stated that performing the procedure could result in “civil and criminal liability,” including fines up to $100,000 and first-degree felony prosecutions. His office also sent letters to Houston-area hospitals, cautioning them of the penalties if the abortion occurred at their facilities.
The Texas Supreme Court is also considering another case, Zurawski v. State of Texas, which pertains to the scope of medical emergency exceptions to the state’s abortion ban. This case was submitted to the court after oral arguments on November 28, with a ruling still pending.
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