Will every abortion in Texas have to be approved by a court?

The sweeping restrictions on abortion that some states have imposed in the wake of the US Supreme Court invalidating Roe v. Wade means that some women have to go to court in order to get an abortion that should have been non-controversial. A judge in Texas yesterday issued a temporary restraining order against the state, thus permitting Kate Cox to get an abortion even though she was 20 weeks pregnant and thus exceeded the six-week limit in that state. Her baby had been diagnosed with trisomy 18, a condition under which it is not expected to live more than a few days outside the womb.

Kate Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, filed a lawsuit this week asking the court to temporarily block the state’s abortion ban, because she has been unable to get the procedure due to concerns of violating the law. Cox’s baby was diagnosed with trisomy 18 and is not expected to live more than a few days outside the womb, according to the suit.

Cox has been to three different emergency rooms in the last month due to severe cramping and unidentifiable fluid leaks, according to her lawsuit. Cox has had two prior cesarean surgeries – C-sections – and, the suit said, “continuing the pregnancy puts her at high risk for severe complications threatening her life and future fertility, including uterine rupture and hysterectomy.”

Cox’s gynecologist could not perform an abortion under Texas law.

Attorneys for the state argued Cox’s condition – as laid out in the court filings – was not severe enough to meet the state’s medical exception standard and that the judge would be essentially changing the law if she granted the temporary restraining order.

Cox’s gynecologist, Dr. Damla Karsan, has previously said she had a “good faith belief” that Cox falls under the legal exception to the abortion ban, but couldn’t provide the abortion without a court order because she “cannot risk loss of her medical license, life in prison, and massive civil fines” if her belief is not accepted by the courts.

The state allows for abortions after six weeks if a woman experiences a “medical emergency,” which is defined in the law as “a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.”

Since the state has decided that this particular abortion would not be covered under the law, Karsan was right to be concerned about being prosecuted if she did what she felt best for her patient.

A different case is before the Texas supreme court in which twenty women and two physicians argue that the Texas law is too vague and should be invalidated. The arguments in that case show why doctors are being put in an untenable situation.

Before the Texas Supreme Court last week, an attorney with the state’s attorney general office argued the law was clear and that if women with life-threatening medical issues were not receiving abortions, then it should be considered negligence on the doctor’s part.

Cox said that although she has gone to the emergency room three times with severe cramping, the law is too vague to make clear whether an abortion under those circumstances would be legal.

So doctors have to weigh between whether they are prosecuted for performing an illegal abortion that the state considers unnecessary or, if they don’t, whether they are prosecuted for negligence because the state considered it to be necessary. So in essence, the state gets to second-guess a medical decision made by the patient’s doctor and if the doctor is deemed to have got it wrong, they get prosecuted. As a result. doctors have to lawyer up and get a judge’s ok before they make medical decisions, all of which takes up time in a medical situation where time is of the essence.


  1. brightmoon says

    OMG that poor woman. They might as well terminate that pregnancy. It’s causing life threatening health problems and the baby isn’t going to live . .

  2. Ridana says

    On top of all this bullshit, anti-abortion crew are now taking aim at doing any pre-natal testing at all, claiming genetic tests are often wrong and promote discrimination against babies (fetuses) with disabilities. They won’t be happy until they outlaw prenatal care altogether.

  3. lanir says

    Pro-life means torture and death. But they don’t ever have to watch it happening in front of them. Instead they get to retreat into their fantasy of saving babies.

    I don’t think the courts are going to handle abortion very well in Texas or anywhere else. The AG doesn’t care about the law, he’s got a political axe to grind. He’s willing to ignore the rule of law, basic human decency, and the pointless suffering of others just to grandstand. And he has support within his office as you can see from the arguments the district attourney made in this case. Judges don’t always handle these sorts of politicized issues very well to begin with so I wouldn’t expect good or even consistent outcomes.

    When you consider the civil suit laws, I can only view this as an attempt to depopulate the state at any cost. But most likely the civil law will get removed as soon as one of those family values politicians gets caught sending his mistress out of state to have an abortion and gets sued himself.

  4. brightmoon says

    The conservatives are just stalling for time to push her over the limit. It’s sadistic! They did put another stay in place . She can’t get the abortion nor can she leave and get one. All for a baby that can’t live and affects her health.

  5. Deepak Shetty says

    Remember the time when the Republicans thought that the government/law deciding your healthcare would lead to death panels?

  6. says

    Before the Texas Supreme Court last week, an attorney with the state’s attorney general office argued the law was clear and that if women with life-threatening medical issues were not receiving abortions, then it should be considered negligence on the doctor’s part.

    This would be more believable if, you know, Texas wasn’t fighting this in court.

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