Texas Supreme Court pauses ruling allowing pregnant woman to have an abortion

A Texas woman seeking an “urgent abortion” challenging the state’s pro-life statutes was granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking enforcement of the law, but the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX) has since issued an administrative stay on the lower court’s ruling while it considers the case.

“Kate Cox needs an abortion, and she needs it now,” states the filing in Cox v. State of Texas.

The initial filing announcement from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) said that Cox “needs urgent abortion care due to a lethal fetal diagnosis and threats to her life, health, and fertility from continuing the pregnancy.”

Included in the lawsuit is Cox’s physician Dr. Damla Karsan, who the CRR said will “provide Kate with an abortion in Texas without the threat of prosecution” if the laws are temporarily halted.

The lawsuit points to Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, as the statute for which Cox and her doctor “fear liability.”

Under the Heartbeat Act, private citizens can file civil suit against those who provide or assist in the provision of an abortion. However, doctors are not civilly liable if the “physician believes a medical emergency exists that prevents compliance,” which the physician must notate in the patient record.

The Texas abortion “trigger ban” titled the Human Life Protection Act, which went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, prohibits abortions and includes criminal and civil penalties, including revocation of the physician's medical license.

Under the law, physicians are allowed to exercise their “reasonable medical judgment” to perform an abortion when the continued pregnancy puts the pregnant woman at “risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

An emergency hearing was held just days after the CRR’s filing, with Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the 459th Civil District Court granting a TRO against the State of Texas from enforcing its pro-life laws.

Gamble stated that not allowing an abortion to take place in this case would be “shocking” and a “miscarriage of justice” for the fact that Cox wants to be a mother and is experiencing medical complications with her current pregnancy.

“Even with being hopeful about the decision that came this morning, there's still — we are going through the loss of a child,” Cox said to NBC News after the TRO was granted. “There’s no outcome here that I can take home my healthy baby girl, so it's hard.”

The TRO garnered a swift reaction from Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office issued a letter stating multiple reasons why performing an abortion on Cox could still result in criminal and civil penalties despite the TRO.

Houston Methodist Hospital, the Women’s Hospital of Texas, and Texas Children's Hospital were penned as the recipients of Paxton’s letter, which also called out Karsan and “activist Travis County Judge” Gamble. 

2022 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke responded to the letter on social media criticizing Paxton’s letter. State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) responded to O’Rourke by saying, “I’m also happy to sue the doctor under the Heartbeat Act.”

After the OAG letter was posted, SCOTX followed with a late-night response. The court issued an administrative stay to the lower court’s TRO, which blocks its implementation while Cox’s case remains pending in court.

“While we still hope that the Court ultimately rejects the state’s request and does so quickly, in this case we fear that justice delayed will be justice denied,” said Molly Duane, senior staff attorney at the CRR.

Since the SCOTX administrative stay order, pro-choice groups have made their way to Austin to protest the decision over the weekend with some chanting, "Stand for Kate Cox! Stand for women's rights!"

There has not been an indication of when SCOTX will take up arguments in Cox v. Texas, but if the hurried nature of last week’s hearings are any indication then an upcoming debate in the state’s highest court could be imminent.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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