Texas lawsuit results in exception to abortion ban

CW: This article contains imagery that may be disturbing to some readers.

For the first time since the Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling in 1973, a Texas judge has ruled that someone must be allowed to receive an abortion. Kate Cox, a 31-year-old woman from Dallas, was forced to sue the state of Texas in order to terminate her pregnancy after learning it would not be viable due to a fatal chromosomal condition and that the legal medical options could prove problematic to her health. 

Under Texas state law, Cox’s options were to have a C-section to remove the fetus or to induce labor — both of which would create a substantial risk of uterine rupturing and impact her fertility long-term. 

“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,” Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said following her ruling.

Gamble’s decision resulted in a temporary restraining order of Texas’ archaic abortion laws. The judge’s ruling also protects the OB-GYN who will perform the procedure from any criminal charges.  

During legal arguments, lawyers representing the state of Texas claimed that Cox’s assertions in the suit were “purely hypothetical” and “a frivolous assertion of harm.”

“The only party that’s going to suffer an immediate and irreparable harm in this case if the court enters a [temporary restraining order] is the state,” said Jonathan Stone, one of the state’s attorneys. 

Texas’ draconian reproductive health laws, like in many other Republican-controlled states, have essentially banned abortion in almost all circumstances. As such, as the Texas Tribune examined earlier this year, countless Texan mothers have been forced to give birth to infants with no chance of survival. 

In one such case, Miranda Michel, a 26-year-old woman living in New Boston, was forced to give birth to twins who “were developing without proper lungs, or stomachs, and with only one kidney for the two of them. They would not survive outside her body,” the Tribune reported. 

“But they still had heartbeats. And so the state would protect them.” 

But Cox’s case isn’t the only legal case that could create a precedent for undermining the restrictive and dangerous ban on abortion in the Lone Star state. Late last month, the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments from the Center for Reproductive Rights — who filed Cox’s case — who along with 22 plaintiffs sued the state in March of this year over its restrictions on medically necessary abortions.  

Molly Duane, the Center’s senior attorney, argued before the court last Tuesday that the language within Texas’ abortion ban is vague and imprecise. 

“While there is technically a medical exception to the bans, no one knows what it means, and the state won’t tell us,” Duane explained. “The state’s own expert said physicians are terrified and are in fact providing substandard care because of the lack of clarity in the law.”

Duane contended that the lead plaintiff in the case, Amanda Zurawski, was a perfect example of this opaqueness: Ms. Zurawski, according to Duane, “became septic while waiting to be ‘sick enough’ to receive abortion care … and now her fertility is compromised.” 

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Jamie Larson