Texas woman who sought court permission for abortion leaves state for the procedure, attorneys say

FILE - Demonstrators gather at the federal courthouse in Austin, Texas, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, June 24, 2022. A pregnant Texas woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis asked a court Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, to let her terminate the pregnancy, bringing what her attorneys say is the first lawsuit of its kind in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
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Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A pregnant Texas woman who sought court permission for an abortion in an unprecedented challenge to one of the most restrictive bans in the U.S. has left the state to obtain the procedure, her attorneys said Monday.

The announcement came as Kate Cox, 31, was awaiting a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court over whether she could legally obtain an abortion under narrow exceptions to the state’s ban. A judge gave Cox, a mother of two from the Dallas area, permission last week but that decision was put on hold by the state’s all-Republican high court.

“Her health is on the line. She’s been in and out of the emergency room and she couldn’t wait any longer,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which was representing Cox.

The organization did not disclose where Cox went. On Monday, she was 20 weeks and six days pregnant.

Cox was believed to be the first woman in the U.S. to ask a court for permission for an abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. Her lawsuit quickly became a high-profile test of bans in Texas and a dozen other GOP-controlled states, where abortion is prohibited at nearly all stages of pregnancy.

Days after Cox filed her lawsuit, a pregnant woman in Kentucky also asked a court to allow an abortion. There has been no ruling yet in that case.

Earlier Monday, two medical groups in the U.S. urged the Texas Supreme Court to rule in favor of Cox. Her attorneys said she had been to the emergency at least four times since becoming pregnant again in August.

“The pervasive ‘climate of fear’ among the Texas medical community is certain to be made worse by this case and the State’s actions in opposing the abortion Ms. Cox needs,” read the brief, which was filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

Texas’ abortion ban makes narrow exceptions when the life of the mother is in danger but not for fetal anomalies.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has defended the state’s strict anti-abortion laws for nearly a decade, argued that Cox did not demonstrate that the pregnancy had put her life in danger.

“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 last week.

Doctors told Cox that her fetus has a condition known as trisomy 18, which has a very high likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth, and low survival rates, according to her lawsuit filed last week in Austin. They also told Cox that inducing labor or carrying the baby to term could jeopardize her ability to have another child.

Trisomy 18 occurs in approximately 1 in 2,500 diagnosed pregnancies, doctors told the court in the brief filed Monday. There is no live birth in about 70% of pregnancies involving the diagnosis that proceed past 12 weeks gestational age, according to the brief.

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 procedures.