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Texas Threatens Doctors After Judge Allows Emergency Abortion

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Last week, Kate Cox, 20 weeks pregnant and a mother of two, received the worst news a person can get: her baby had a fatal condition known as Trisomy 18. The baby will not survive to birth, but under Texas law, there are only two options available to Cox: a vaginal delivery, or a C-section. Either option would risk her life or her ability to have children in the future. 

Because of two prior C-sections, Cox’s doctors advised her she is at a high-risk for a uterine rupture if she had an induced labor, and that if she had a third C-section it would increase the chances that she is unable to carry a future pregnancy to term. On Tuesday, Cox’s lawyers filed an emergency lawsuit, asking the court to temporarily block the state’s abortion bans so Cox could obtain an abortion. 

On Thursday, Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble heard from Cox’s lawyers and the state of Texas — whose lawyer argued that Cox didn’t meet the threshold for a medical exception to the state’s multiple abortion bans. Judge Gamble reportedly teared up as she read her opinion from the bench: “The idea that Ms. Cox wants so desperately to be a parent and this law may have her lose that ability is shocking and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice.”

The case marks the first time a woman has asked a judge to approve an emergency abortion since the Supreme Court struck down the federal right to abortion last year. 

Judge Gamble granted the temporary restraining order, clearing a path for Cox to obtain an emergency abortion. Cox, Gamble wrote in her opinion, “has already been to three emergency rooms with severe cramping, diarrhea, and leaking unidentifiable fluid. If she is forced to continue this pregnancy, Ms. Cox is at a particularly high risk for gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, fetal macrosomia, post-operative infections, anesthesia complications, uterine rupture, and hysterectomy, due to her two prior C-sections and underlying health conditions.”

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton wasted no time threatening anyone who would aid Cox in obtaining an abortion. 

“The temporary restraining order granted by the Travis County district judge purporting to allow an abortion to proceed will not insulate hospitals, doctors or anyone else from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws,” Paxton said in a statement shortly after the judge’s decision. “This includes first degree felony prosecutions…and civil penalties of not less than $100,000 for each violation.

Paxton added, ominously: “The [judge’s temporary restraining order] will expire long before the statute of limitations for violating Texas’ abortion laws expires.”

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The attorney general went on to dispatch letters to three Houston-area hospitals where the doctor who was to perform Cox’s abortion has admitting privileges, threatening them with civil and criminal penalties if the abortion were to take place. 

“We feel it is important for you to understand the potential long-term implications if you permit such an abortion to occur at your facility,” Paxton wrote, adding that the hospitals “may be liable for negligently credentialing the physician and failing to exercise appropriate professional judgment, among other potential regulatory and civil violations.”


Last week, Kate Cox, 20 weeks pregnant and a mother of two, received the worst news a person can get: her baby had a fatal condition known as Trisomy 18. The baby will not survive to birth, but under Texas law, there are only two options available to Cox: a vaginal delivery, or a C-section. Either option would risk her life or her ability to have children in the future. 

Because of two prior C-sections, Cox’s doctors advised her she is at a high-risk for a uterine rupture if she had an induced labor, and that if she had a third C-section it would increase the chances that she is unable to carry a future pregnancy to term. On Tuesday, Cox’s lawyers filed an emergency lawsuit, asking the court to temporarily block the state’s abortion bans so Cox could obtain an abortion. 

On Thursday, Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble heard from Cox’s lawyers and the state of Texas — whose lawyer argued that Cox didn’t meet the threshold for a medical exception to the state’s multiple abortion bans. Judge Gamble reportedly teared up as she read her opinion from the bench: “The idea that Ms. Cox wants so desperately to be a parent and this law may have her lose that ability is shocking and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice.”

The case marks the first time a woman has asked a judge to approve an emergency abortion since the Supreme Court struck down the federal right to abortion last year. 

Judge Gamble granted the temporary restraining order, clearing a path for Cox to obtain an emergency abortion. Cox, Gamble wrote in her opinion, “has already been to three emergency rooms with severe cramping, diarrhea, and leaking unidentifiable fluid. If she is forced to continue this pregnancy, Ms. Cox is at a particularly high risk for gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, fetal macrosomia, post-operative infections, anesthesia complications, uterine rupture, and hysterectomy, due to her two prior C-sections and underlying health conditions.”

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton wasted no time threatening anyone who would aid Cox in obtaining an abortion. 

“The temporary restraining order granted by the Travis County district judge purporting to allow an abortion to proceed will not insulate hospitals, doctors or anyone else from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws,” Paxton said in a statement shortly after the judge’s decision. “This includes first degree felony prosecutions…and civil penalties of not less than $100,000 for each violation.

Paxton added, ominously: “The [judge’s temporary restraining order] will expire long before the statute of limitations for violating Texas’ abortion laws expires.”

Trending

The attorney general went on to dispatch letters to three Houston-area hospitals where the doctor who was to perform Cox’s abortion has admitting privileges, threatening them with civil and criminal penalties if the abortion were to take place. 

“We feel it is important for you to understand the potential long-term implications if you permit such an abortion to occur at your facility,” Paxton wrote, adding that the hospitals “may be liable for negligently credentialing the physician and failing to exercise appropriate professional judgment, among other potential regulatory and civil violations.”

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