The Texas Supreme Court paused a pregnant woman’s request for an emergency abortion that doctors and her attorney argued would save her life. In response to the ruling, Kate Cox’s lawyers report she has now left the state to get an abortion somewhere else.

The high court had frozen a lower court’s ruling that ignored state law to allow Cox, 31, a mother of two from the Dallas area to obtain an abortion.  

In a one-page order on Friday, the high court said it was temporarily staying Thursday’s ruling “without regard to the merits.” The case is still pending. The order issued by the Travis County court only applied to Cox and no other pregnant Texas women.

Cox’s 20-week-old unborn baby is believed to be disabled and she says the pregnancy has caused her “pain and suffering.” 

“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,” said Molly Duane, an attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Cox.

The plaintiff learned she was pregnant for a third time in August and was told weeks later that her baby was at high risk for a condition known as trisomy 18, which has a very high likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth and low survival rates, according to her lawsuit.

“For weeks, Ms. Cox’s physicians have been telling her that early screening and ultrasound tests suggest that her pregnancy is unlikely to end with a healthy baby. Because Ms. Cox has had two prior cesarean surgeries (“C-sections”), continuing the pregnancy puts her at high risk for severe complications threatening her life and future fertility, including uterine rupture and hysterectomy,” according to the complaint.  

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton disputed Cox’s claim that carrying her baby to term could endanger her health, and that the baby has little chance of survival. The attorney general noted she was sent home following her visits to hospital emergency rooms. He urged the state’s highest court to act swiftly.  

“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,” Paxton’s office told the court.

He also warned three hospitals in Houston that they could face legal consequences if they allowed Cox’s physician to provide the abortion, despite the ruling from state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble whom Paxton called an “activist” judge.

The pro-life group, Texas Right to Life, denounced Cox’s lawsuit in a statement.

“Every child is uniquely precious and should continue to be protected in law no matter how long or short the baby’s life may be,” the group said in a statement. “The compassionate approach to these heartbreaking diagnoses is perinatal palliative care, which honors, rather than ends, the child’s life,” the statement said. 

Texas Alliance for Life‘s Communications Director Amy O’Donnell said, “It is heartbreaking to hear of any family facing a tragic diagnosis for their unborn child. At the same time, Texas Alliance for Life does not support taking the life of an unborn child because of a life-limiting or fatal diagnosis.”

“The Center for Reproductive Rights’ goal is for the courts to chisel away at the protections for unborn babies under the guise of ‘clarifying’ the law until elective abortion is legal up to birth,” O’Donnell added. 

Abortion is illegal in Texas and the ban makes no exceptions for fetal anomalies. Texas law only allows abortions to save the life of the mother. The termination of pregnancies because of fetal anomalies or other often fatal medical problems is seldom discussed in national debates over abortion. There are no recent statistics on the frequency of terminations for fetal anomalies in the U.S. but experts say it’s a small percentage of total abortions.

“The Texas Legislature did not intend for courts to become revolving doors of permission slips to obtain abortions,” Paxton’s office wrote in a filing to the state Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Texas’s high court recently heard a hearing on another case brought by 20 women who sued the state claiming the laws on abortion are too vague leaving doctors fearful of violating the ban. Under the law in Texas, doctors who perform abortions risk life in prison and fines of up to $100,000.

The ruling on that case is several months away. 

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