The Texas Supreme Court halted a lower court ruling finding that a woman by the name of Kate Cox met the medical exception in the state's abortion law. She now plans to travel out of state to get an abortion.
The state supreme court issued its order Friday, with the court declaring that the case would remain pending. With the help of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Cox filed a lawsuit last week against the state after her unborn child was diagnosed with trisomy 18, claiming that continuing the pregnancy could risk her health and future fertility.
Cox, who was 20 weeks pregnant when the case was filed, was unable to get an abortion in Texas due to the state's ban on abortions except in cases where the mother's life is in danger.
On Monday, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced that the Dallas-area 31-year-old mother of two departed Texas to get an abortion out of state after a week of litigation.
"This past week of legal limbo has been hellish for Kate," Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement. "Her health is on the line. She's been in and out of the emergency room and she couldn't wait any longer. This is why judges and politicians should not be making healthcare decisions for pregnant people — they are not doctors."
In its order, the Texas Supreme Court said it wasn't ruling on the case's merits and did not specify when it would issue a full ruling.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, trisomy 18 is a genetic condition in which an individual has an extra copy of chromosome 18. Children diagnosed with trisomy 18 may have a low birth weight and delays in their physical growth, as well as a short life expectancy.
Babies who are born with the condition and survive are typically provided with comfort care. However, there are several types of treatment available depending on the severity of the diagnosis, including orthopedic care and heart surgery.
Dr. Christina Francis, a board-certified OBGYN and CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, stressed that pregnant women and their preborn children deserve the highest quality of health care, especially in tragic prenatal diagnoses cases and during high-risk pregnancies.
"Our hearts break for her and her family," she stated. "Though we cannot speak to the specifics of her case without her medical records, we do know that life-affirming medicine does allow women to obtain treatment for pregnancy complications, as does the Texas law."
Francis noted that thousands of doctors who are members of AAPLOG, including many in Texas, serve patients without any fear that they are violating the law.
"Notably, laws protecting the preborn exist in part to affirm the dignity of fetal human beings with life-limiting conditions rather than ending a preborn child's life prematurely simply because it is predicted to be shorter than most people's," the pro-life doctor continued.
She cited perinatal palliative care as a more life-affirming option, noting that this allows parents to receive support throughout the pregnancy from medical staff and grief counselors. Francis also stated that research suggests perinatal palliative care yields better mental health outcomes for grieving parents, as it "respects the value of both mom and baby, unlike induced abortion."
"That's the kind of dignified care that our patients deserve," the pro-life doctor stated.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed its petition earlier this month, seeking a declaratory judgment at minimum that the state's abortion law does not prohibit physicians from performing an abortion if the pregnancy presents a risk to the mother's life or health.
In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Following the decision, regulatory authority over abortion returned to the states, and Texas's Human Life Protection Act went into effect in August 2022, prohibiting abortion in most cases.
The law allows for exceptions in cases where, according to a physician's "reasonable medical judgment," the pregnancy places the mother at risk of death or physical impairment. The physician must provide the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive unless doing so increases the risk of death or "substantial impairment of a major bodily function" for the pregnant woman.
On Nov. 28, Cox received the results of an amniocentesis, which supported the results of previous prenatal tests that found her unborn child had Trisomy 18, according to the suit.
The test results came on the same day that the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments for Zurawski v. State of Texas, another case pending before the court regarding medical exceptions in the state's abortion law.
The lawsuit claimed that Cox has had two C-sections in the past and has been to three different emergency rooms due to cramping and unidentifiable fluid leaks, arguing that "continuing the pregnancy puts her at high risk for severe complications threatening her life and future fertility, including uterine rupture and hysterectomy."
On Thursday, a lower court granted a temporary restraining order against Texas' abortion law, determining that Cox's case fell under the law's medical exceptions. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton petitioned the state Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the district court ruling, writing that Cox had failed to demonstrate she had a "life-threatening" medical condition related to her pregnancy.
Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director and the founder of And Then There Were None, an organization that helps abortion facility workers leave their jobs, called the Texas case "heartbreaking."
In a statement provided to CP, Johnson stated that, as a mother, she could empathize with Cox's situation. Instead of abortion in adverse prenatal diagnosis cases, however, Johnson advocated for mothers to have time with their children before they pass away naturally.
"It is frightening to think of living in a society that believes we have the right to eliminate the lives of those we don't deem 'fit' to be among us," Johnson stated. "This is exactly the eugenics mindset Margaret Sanger held when she started Planned Parenthood. All lives matter — even those who have a terminal illness and who society deems it better they die before ever being born into the arms of those who love them."