Woman at Texas abortion ban protest with a sign that reads "Don't mess with [Texas] my uterus" with Texas crossed out

Maternal Healthcare in Texas Now Requires an Emergency Order From a Judge

UPDATE 12/09/23: The Texas Supreme Court has halted the judge’s ruling allowing Cox to get an abortion. The court will rule on the emergency restraining order “without regard to the merits,” but did not say when said ruling would occur. Molly Duane, Cox’s lawyer, said in a statement, “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.”

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On Thursday, December 7, 2023, a Texas judge granted an emergency abortion to a woman in Dallas carrying an unviable pregnancy. Kate Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, filed an emergency temporary restraining order against Texas’ draconian abortion ban, which bars abortions after six weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger.

However, assessing the danger a terminal pregnancy has on a woman’s health is murky at best, and physicians across the state are fearful of providing life-saving abortions due to the legal and professional ramifications. Cox, who is 31 years old and already a mother of two, had learned that her fetus tested positive for trisomy 18, a genetic abnormality that is almost always terminal. Cox, who went to the ER four times last month, could face life-threatening complications and lose the ability to carry children in the future.

Cox wrote in a statement, “It is not a matter of if I will have to say goodbye to my baby, but when, … I’m trying to do what is best for my baby and myself, but the state of Texas is making us both suffer.”

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled that Cox should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy, issuing an order protecting Cox’s OBGYN, Dr. Damla Karsan, from civil and criminal penalties. “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,” Gamble wrote in her ruling.

Cox’s case sets a precedent for emergency abortions in Texas, an issue that will soon be debated by the Texas Supreme Court in a similar case. Zurawski v. State of Texas is a lawsuit filed by 22 women who are suing the state to clarify the details of their right to medically necessary abortions. Since the Texas abortion ban was written by men with no medical knowledge or expertise, the vagueness of the language places an undue liability on doctors and care providers.

Since Texas banned abortion in 2021, infant mortality has spiked 10%. The state has also seen an exodus of doctors who are unable to perform medicine under these limiting and arbitrary conditions. Doctors who perform abortions deemed not medically necessary could face fines, revoked medical licenses, and prison time.

 Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights (which represents Cox in the case), issued a statement saying, “Every day, people like Kate are suffering under these dangerous bans and the state of Texas is choosing to let it happen. But it’s not just in Texas, this is happening in all 14 states where abortion is banned. These bans are putting real lives at risk and causing incredible anguish for pregnant people.” She added, “Abortion is standard healthcare, and Kate needs that care right now. The court must urgently step in to protect Kate’s health. Women like Kate should not be forced to go to court to protect her health and preserve her future fertility.” 

(via Texas Tribune, featured image: Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.