Case update: On December 7, within hours of the state court’s ruling in Cox’s favor, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Texas Supreme Court to block the order allowing Cox to access abortion care in the state. Paxton also issued a letter threatening to prosecute any doctor who gave Cox an abortion, despite the court order. Click here for more case updates.
On December 7, a Texas judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the enforcement of Texas’s abortion bans as they apply to a woman seeking urgent abortion care to protect her life, health and future fertility. The order allows the plaintiff, Kate Cox, to access abortion care in Texas.
Cox (shown in photo) recently received confirmation that her pregnancy had Trisomy 18—a condition causing multiple structural abnormalities—and had no chance of survival. She was warned by her OB-GYN and MFM specialist that continuing to carry the pregnancy to term could jeopardize her health and future fertility.
Cox has already undergone two C-sections. If she was forced to stay pregnant, she would likely need a third, placing her at high risk for multiple serious medical conditions such as uterine rupture and hysterectomy.
She and her husband wish to have more children, and undergoing another C-section to deliver this pregnancy would lessen the likelihood that she’d be able to safely have more children in the future.
“Today’s decision underscores what we already know—abortion is essential health care. While we are grateful that Kate will be able to get this urgent medical care, it is unforgivable that she was forced to go to court to ask for it in the middle of a medical emergency,” said Molly Duane, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Most women are not able to do what Kate has done—many Texans have been forced to continue pregnancies that put their lives at risk. That is happening every day across Texas. As long as abortion is banned, pregnant people will suffer.”
The case, Cox v. Texas, filed by the Center on December 5, asks the state court to temporarily halt Texas’s abortion bans as they apply to Cox and her husband, Justin Cox, who fears liability under S.B. 8—the law also known as Texas’s “vigilante” abortion ban. It also requests that the court allow obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) Dr. Damla Karsan to provide Cox with an abortion in Texas without the threat of prosecution, loss of license, and civil fines.
Ruling from the bench, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble stated, “I am going to grant the Temporary Restraining Order for the Coxes and Dr. Karsan. 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. So I will be signing the order and it will be processed and sent out today.”
More from Judge Gamble’s ruling:
“Ms. Cox’s circumstances thus fall within the medical exception to Texas’s abortion bans and laws. Texas law therefore permits Dr. Karsan to perform, induce, or attempt an abortion for Ms. Cox, and permits Mr. Cox to assist Ms. Cox in obtaining that abortion.”
“Defendants have not disavowed enforcement of these laws [Texas bans] in circumstances like Ms. Cox’s, nor have they provided any clarity as to how physicians like Dr. Karsan or persons like Dr. Cox should interpret the medical exception to Texas’s abortion bans and laws that Defendants enforce. . . The court finds that Plaintiffs are reasonably chilled from performing or aiding in the performance of an abortion for Ms. Cox without issuance of temporary relief restraining Defendants.”
“Unless Defendants are restrained, Plaintiffs face an imminent threat of irreparable harm under Texas’s abortion bans and laws. Judicial intervention is necessary to preserve Plaintiffs’ legal right to obtain, provide, aid, or abet the abortion Ms. Cox is currently seeking.”
Dr. Karsan is also one of the OB-GYN plaintiffs in Zurawski v. Texas, the Center’s case on behalf of 20 Texas women denied abortion care despite facing severe and dangerous pregnancy complications and two Texas physicians. The Center is awaiting a ruling in that case from the Texas Supreme Court, which heard arguments recently on the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling blocking the state’s abortion bans as they apply to such complications.
The news about the arguments in the Zurawski case—which occurred on the same day Cox received her fetal diagnosis—led Cox to contact the Center about her inability to obtain abortion care.
“As we await the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling in Zurawski v. State of Texas, our hearts go out to the countless people in similar situations who—for so many reasons—aren’t able to sue the state of Texas for an emergency hearing,” added Duane.
When the case was filed on December 5, Cox said, “It is not a matter of if I will have to say goodbye to my baby, but when. I’m trying to do what is best for my baby and myself, but the state of Texas is making us both suffer. . . I do not want to put my body through the risks of continuing this pregnancy. I do not want my baby to arrive in this world only to watch her suffer. I need to end my pregnancy now so that I have the best chance for my health and a future pregnancy.”
Cox v. Texas is the first case since the overturning of Roe v. Wade filed on behalf of a pregnant person seeking emergency abortion care. It was filed in the District Court of Travis County, Texas, by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Morrison & Foerster LLP, and Kaplan Law Firm on behalf of Kate Cox, Justin Cox, and Damla Karsan, M.D.
- Complaint, 12.05.23
- State of Texas Response, 12.06.23
- Temporary Restraining Order, 12.07.23
- State of Texas Petition for Writ of Mandamus, 12.07.23
- State of Texas Emergency Motion for Temporary Relief, 12.07.23
- Appellees’ Notice of Supplemental Authorities, 12.07.23
- Letter to Judge Guerra Gamble, 12.07.23
- Response to State’s Petition for Writ of Mandamus and Emergency Motion for Temporary Relief, 12.08.23
- Texas Supreme Court Ruling, 12.08.23
- State of Texas Reply in Support of Petition for Writ of Mandamus, 12.09.23
- Notice to the Courts, 12.11.23
- ACOG & SMFM Amicus Brief, 12.11.23
The Center for Reproductive Rights is dedicated to helping all people access abortion in their communities, including people who are denied care while facing pregnancy complications. If you have been denied care and want to speak to a lawyer about your options, please reach out to [email protected].