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Texas Supreme Court Decision Forces Woman with Fatal Fetal Diagnosis to Seek Abortion Out of State

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Texas Supreme Court has denied a Texas woman, Kate Cox, the ability to obtain an abortion despite her fetus having a fatal diagnosis. Cox, who is approximately 20 weeks pregnant, received the devastating news of her developing fetus having trisomy 18, a condition likely to result in stillbirth or death shortly after birth.

Cox, along with her husband, sought a court order to bypass Texas’ stringent abortion bans, which currently prohibit the procedure after about six weeks of gestation. Despite a state district judge initially granting the request last Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily halted the lower court’s order on Friday. On Monday evening, the Texas Supreme Court directed the lower court to vacate its order.

The court stated that a woman meeting the medical-necessity exception does not require a court order for an abortion, leaving such decisions to physicians rather than judges. This decision has sparked outrage from reproductive rights advocates, including Molly Duane, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who expressed that the ruling should enrage every Texan.

Cox, facing a deteriorating health situation, has decided to leave Texas to seek the necessary medical care. The court’s decision has prompted concerns about the potential consequences of such rulings, particularly for those who may not have the option to leave the state for medical treatment.

Trisomy 18 is a rare chromosomal disorder associated with a high risk of stillbirth or infant mortality. Cox, facing multiple pregnancy complications, including hypertension, gestational diabetes, and infection, sought an abortion to protect her health and future fertility. Despite these risks, the Texas Supreme Court’s decision, coupled with the state’s restrictive abortion laws, has left her with no choice but to seek medical care outside of Texas.

The legal battle has drawn attention to the broader issue of abortion restrictions in Texas, where two primary laws limit access to the procedure. The first law, pre-dating the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, allows private citizens to file civil suits against those involved in an abortion after approximately six weeks of gestation. The second law, triggered by the Dobbs decision, criminalizes abortion from the moment of fertilization.

Kate Cox’s case is shedding light on the challenges women face under Texas’ restrictive abortion laws and the potential consequences of seeking legal exceptions. The legal limbo faced by Cox over the past week has raised concerns about the impact on her health and the broader implications for reproductive rights in the state.

As Cox seeks medical care outside of Texas, the Center for Reproductive Rights emphasizes the urgency of addressing the dangers of being pregnant in a state with restrictive abortion bans. The Supreme Court’s decision, which has been described as a total change in how medical exemption cases are handled, has ignited debates on the judiciary’s role in such matters.

The broader implications of this case extend beyond Cox’s situation, with legal challenges to abortion restrictions becoming increasingly prevalent. In Kentucky, a pregnant woman filed a similar lawsuit last week, challenging the state’s abortion ban. Meanwhile, a group of women in Texas, who were denied abortions, has filed a lawsuit seeking clarification on situations constituting medical emergencies.

The Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Cox’s case highlights the ongoing battles over reproductive rights, prompting renewed discussions about the impact of restrictive abortion laws on women’s health and the need for clarity in defining medical exceptions.

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