Sarah May
December 10, 2023

Texas Supreme Court halts lower court ruling allowing woman's abortion for medical reasons

In a decision that has sparked much debate and controversy, the Texas Supreme Court on Friday halted a lower court ruling that permitted an expectant mother to undergo an abortion, despite having already passed the state's legal gestation threshold for such a procedure, as The Hill reports.

At issue is the case of Katie Cox, who, at 20 weeks pregnant, is grappling with the news that her fetus has a condition known as full trisomy, which is known to produce miscarriage, stillbirth, or the child's death soon after birth.

Controversial case

Physicians treating Cox have informed her that to carry the pregnancy to term would involve either a cesarean section or an induction procedure that could cause her serious harm due to her specific medical history.

Such a scenario could, according to Cox's doctors, also put her future fertility at risk.

Travis County District Judge Maya Fuerra Gamble had previously issued a temporary restraining order that would have prevented the state of Texas from enforcing against Cox its very strict abortion law, a measure which prohibits the lion's share of abortions unless such a procedure will save the life of the pregnant woman or save her from serious physical harm.

Under the statute, any physician who performs a procedure outside of those scenarios is subject to prosecution.

After that decision in the lower court, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton sought intervention from the state Supreme Court, which then issued a stay on Gamble's decision.

Halt ordered

As Fox News noted, in a one-page ruling issuing a stay, the high court said that it was halting the lower court's order “without regard to the merits” of the arguments so that more time would be available for more thorough consideration of the issues.

Speaking on behalf of Cox was Molly Duane, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who said, “While we still hope that the Court ultimately rejects the state's request and does so quickly, in this case we fear that justice delayed will be justice denied.”

“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,” Duane added.

Paxton stands firm

For his part, AG Paxton maintains that Cox simply does not meet the standard for a medical exception to the Texas statute prohibiting abortion, and therefore, the lower court ruling must be invalidated.

“Future criminal and civil proceedings cannot restore the life that is lost if Plaintiffs or their agents proceed to perform and procure and abortion in violation of Texas law,” Paxton added, but the eventual judicial interpretation of the relevant medical criteria under the law at issue is still something that remains to be seen.

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