Texas Supreme Court Tosses Abortion Lifeline for Woman With Fatal Fetal Diagnosis

Texas Supreme Court Tosses Abortion Lifeline for Woman With Fatal Fetal DiagnosisSource: WhisperToMe, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Matt Mitchell
Published on December 09, 2023

The legal tug-of-war over abortion rights in Texas continues as the state's Supreme Court halted a lower court's ruling that would have permitted a pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy due to a fetal fatal diagnosis. This Friday night decision puts the matter into a state of flux once more, with 31-year-old Kate Cox at the center of this landmark case.

Cox's circumstances, where her fetus suffers from trisomy 18—a condition leading to a high chance of miscarriage or stillbirth—spotlighted the edges of the state's near-total abortion ban. Despite her medically perilous situation, which includes elevated risks due to previous cesareans, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court issued a spare, one-page order that protracted the uncertainty surrounding her healthcare options, stating the halt was "without regard to the merits". Her attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights have voiced their concerns about the delay, with attorney Molly Duane noting to Al Jazeera, "We are talking about urgent medical care. Kate is already 20 weeks pregnant. This is why people should not need to beg for healthcare in a court of law."

The tussle over Cox's right to an abortion follows last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which led Texas, among other states, to rush to enforce bans on abortions at nearly all stages of pregnancy. The specific order provided by state district judge Maya Guerra Gamble, which originally green-lighted her abortion, was only applicable to Cox, not setting a broader precedent for abortion access across Texas. Yet, according to CBS Austin, Attorney General Ken Paxton has labeled Guerra Gamble as "an activist" and insisted that Cox's situation does not fulfill the criteria for a medical exception under the state's abortion legislation.

Paxton's office has cautioned that "Future criminal and civil proceedings cannot restore the life that is lost if plaintiffs or their agents proceed to perform and procure an abortion in violation of Texas law," as stated in the CBS Austin report. This stern warning has also been extended to three Houston hospitals, who are advised that they could face serious consequences should they enable Cox's physician to proceed with the abortion, despite the initial lower court's go-ahead. With the final verdict still pending, the legal representation for Cox has opted to keep her abortion plans confidential, citing safety concerns for their client.