On Monday evening, the Texas Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision allowing Kate Cox—a woman carrying a non-viable fetus in a life-threatening pregnancy—to seek an abortion. The ruling makes it clear that Texas’ anti-abortion legislation is working as intended, and that no court can provide relief from the inherent cruelty and dehumanization of the Texas law.
Hours before the ruling was handed down, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced that Cox had left Texas to seek a surgical abortion in another state. Details are intentionally being withheld, out of concern for Cox and her family.
The fetus Cox is carrying has full trisomy-18, a non-survivable condition that causes aberrations in many parts of the body. Many fetuses with the condition do not live long enough to be brought to full term. While some babies with this condition do make it through birth alive, they cannot survive and suffer multiple complications. Attempting to deal with a late miscarriage in such a case threatens both Cox’s life and her ability to have children in the future.
On Dec. 7, Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble granted Cox a temporary restraining order allowing her to seek an abortion from a hospital in Houston. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately responded by sending letters threatening civil and criminal penalties against any doctor or hospital that might try to assist Cox.
The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling shows that Paxton’s inhumanity and malice are not an aberration. They are the intentional result of legislation passed in Texas.
The Texas decision calls into question the value of any provision that supposedly extends the option of an abortion to protect the life or health of the woman. It’s now clear that such provisions can be thwarted by intrusive Republican attorney generals arguing that the woman’s life is not under enough threat. The Texas courts have agreed with Paxton. No doctor is going to feel able to provide an abortion, even in an emergency, under these conditions.
That a woman should be required to risk her life and her family’s future in carrying to term a child that cannot survive ,and will live any brief life in abject misery, is just what Republicans intended. This is Texas law working as designed. This is what “pro-life” activists celebrated when Roe v. Wade was overturned. This is just what they wanted.
Cox will, thankfully, findrelief—and grieve her necessary decision—in another state. Whether she will be able to return to her home, and whether her family will be allowed to resume their lives, is much less clear. Based on Paxton’s past actions and language, it seems unlikely.
For Texas women who don’t have the option to flee the state and secure the medical care they need in some other state, the only comfort they have is that “the law reflects the policy that the Texas legislature has made.”
That’s the same comfort that Republicans would like to bring to women everywhere.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the date of Judge Guerra Gamble’s ruling as Nov. 7, rather than Dec. 7, and misstated the type of abortion Cox requires as medical, rather than surgical.
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