ABORTION RIGHTS

Ruling Allowing Texas Woman’s Abortion Met with More Cruelty

High court blocks it; attorney general threatens doctor, hospitals

Vanessa Gallman
3 min readDec 8, 2023

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Kate Cox, a mother of two, won first court ruling allowing exception to an abortion ban after fetus diagnosed with genetic condition with little chance for viability. Photo: Center for Reproductive Rights

A judge’s Dec. 7 decision allowing a Dallas-area woman and her doctor to proceed with an abortion was a welcome sign of rationality in a state with strict bans. The ruling, which only applies to this case, is the first of its kind since federal abortion rights ended June, 2022.

Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two, discovered that a fatal, fetal genetic condition will risk her health and ability to have another child. At about 20 weeks pregnant, she has already had three emergency-room visits.

“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,” ruled District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble who set a 14-day restraining order against the six-week abortion ban.

Yet, two days later, the Texas Supreme Court blocked the ruling, giving no indication of any urgency for its review. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had appealed the judge’s decision, saying Cox did not prove her life was endangered. He has promised to prosecute the doctor if he performs the procedure, with a penalty up to life in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Pregnant women cannot be sued under Texas abortion law, but Paxton reminded citizens that, under a vigilante law, they can sue anyone who helps a woman seek an abortion. Successful prosecution could provide up to $10,000 to the plaintiff.

Paxton also threatened to sue three Houston hospitals where Cox’s doctor has privileges. The hospitals and their medical staffs, he wrote, “may be liable for negligently credentialing the physician and failing to exercise appropriate professional judgment, among other potential regulatory and civil violations.”

Texas anti-abortion law does allow exceptions in cases of medical emergencies and fatal fetal diagnoses. But 20 women and two OB-GYNs filed a March lawsuit saying the law is too vague and has made it difficult to find care for those with pregnancy complications. The Texas Supreme Court won’t rule on that lawsuit until next year.

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Vanessa Gallman

Experienced journalist, educator and retired opinion-page editor with occasional musings