AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas woman on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the state, asking a county judge to grant her relief from restrictive anti-abortion laws and authorize her to obtain the medically needed procedure.
Kate Cox, of Dallas, is 20 weeks pregnant with an unborn baby who has Edwards’ syndrome, a lethal genetic condition that causes severe developmental delay. Doctors advised her to get an abortion because there was “virtually no chance” her baby would survive, and continuing the pregnancy poses grave risks to her health and fertility, according to the court filing.
“I do not want my baby to arrive in this world only to watch her suffer a heart attack or suffocation,” Cox said in a news release. “I desperately want the chance to try for another baby and want to access the medical care now that gives me the best chance at another baby.”
In 2021, Texas passed one of the most restrictive state abortion laws, prohibiting the procedure once embryonic cardiac activity could be detected, which is around six weeks. A year later, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the state’s “trigger law” went into effect, prohibiting abortion from the moment of fertilization with a few exceptions. The restrictions are being contested in multiple courts.
Cox, her husband Justin and her OB-GYN are asking the court to temporarily block Texas’ overlapping abortion bans and to authorize the termination of Cox’s pregnancy. Texas laws only allow an abortion in cases where “a life-threatening physical condition … places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”
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Pregnancy would pose great health risks, doctors said
Cox, who has two children, has been admitted to three different emergency rooms in the past month after experiencing severe cramping and unidentifiable fluid leaks, according to the complaint.
Her pregnancy puts her at increased risk of gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, uterine rupture from Caesarean section and post-operative infections, among other conditions, and carrying the pregnancy to term would make it less likely that she will be able to carry a third child in the future, Cox’s doctors advised her, according to the filing.
Cox said she and her husband are hoping to have more children and were devastated to learn their unborn child has Edwards’ syndrome, also called Trisomy 18. More than 95% of fetuses diagnosed with the condition die in the womb, and those who do survive have a high likelihood of dying from congenital heart disease or respiratory failure, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Texas’ has among the strongest abortion restrictions in country
Cox’s suit comes a week after the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in another abortion-related case, Zurawski v. Texas, which alleges that vague language and “non-medical terminology” in state laws leave doctors unable or unwilling to administer abortion care, forcing patients to seek treatment out of state or to wait until after their lives are in danger. Cox’s physician is a plaintiff in Zurawski v. Texas.
A series of laws passed between 2021 and 2023 in Texas have reduced access to abortion except in cases in which a pregnant patient risks death or “substantial impairment of major bodily function.” Physicians who violate the laws face severe penalties, including fines of more than $100,000 and first-degree felony charges, punishable with up to life in prison.
Senate Bill 8 — a 2021 law that banned abortions once embryonic cardiac activity could be detected, generally around the sixth week of gestation, before most women know they are pregnant — skirted federal protections for abortion by relying on private citizens to enforce it through lawsuits against providers and anyone involved in aiding with the procedure.
In December 2021, a state district judge ruled that the law violated the Texas Constitution, but it was allowed to remain in effect while its constitutionality was under review in several court cases.