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UPDATE: Woman to leave Texas to get abortion after state Supreme Court blocks ruling

December 11, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
A sign welcoming patients from East Texas is displayed in the waiting area of the Women’s Reproductive Clinic, which provides legal medication abortion services, in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on June 15, 2022. / Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 11, 2023 / 18:15 pm (CNA).

A woman who sued Texas state officials so she could obtain an abortion has decided to get an abortion in a different state after the state Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling that could have granted her an abortion.

“Kate [Cox’s] case has shown the world that abortion bans are dangerous for pregnant people and exceptions don’t work,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing her in the lawsuit, said in a statement.

“She desperately wanted to be able to get care where she lives and recover at home surrounded by family,” Northup said. “While Kate had the ability to leave the state, most people do not, and a situation like this could be a death sentence.” 

The Texas Supreme Court intervened in the litigation on Dec. 8 after Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a temporary order that would have restricted state officials from enforcing Texas abortion laws against hospitals and doctors who would have performed the abortion for the woman. 

Gamble’s Dec. 7 order came amid the preborn child’s diagnosis of trisomy 18. Only about 5%-10% of babies born with this condition will live past their first birthday. Her order also claims the woman’s doctor determined that she could suffer long-term health complications, such as future fertility problems, if she continued the pregnancy.

The Supreme Court’s intervention restored the state’s ability to enforce its laws but did not put an end to the litigation, noting that the ruling is “without regard to the merits” of the case and it allows the case to proceed. The pro-abortion group will continue the litigation “because the issues in this case are capable of repetition,” they said in a Dec. 11 court filing.

The litigation is scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 20 in the Travis County District Court. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has accused Gamble of being an “activist judge” and has argued that the ruling failed to show any “reasonable medical judgment and a life-threatening physical condition” and did not meet “the legal standard” for a permissible abortion under Texas law.

State law prohibits abortions in most circumstances, with an exception when the life of the mother is at risk or she could face serious problems with her physical health.


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Texas judge’s ruling that woman can have abortion leaves hospitals liable to prosecution

December 7, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned Texas hospitals that despite a Dec. 7, 2023, court ruling that a woman could have a legal abortion, hospitals involved may be persecuted for violating the state’s law. / Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 7, 2023 / 17:50 pm (CNA).

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned three Houston-based hospitals that they are not immune from civil or criminal liability for violating the state’s abortion laws despite a court order that purports to allow a woman to receive an abortion.

Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a temporary restraining order Thursday morning that prevents the state from taking legal action against an abortionist who intends to perform an abortion on a woman whose unborn child has a low likelihood of survival after birth. The order expires on Dec. 21, but a hearing to make the restraining order permanent is set for Dec. 20.

Although the temporary restraining order blocks the state from enforcing its abortion laws while it is in effect, Paxton warned that the state can enforce the law against the abortionist and the hospitals with which she is affiliated once it expires. 

In a letter, Paxton said the temporary restraining order “will expire long before the statute of limitations for violating Texas’ abortion laws expire,” which would allow the state to enforce its laws if a permanent restraining order does not hold up in court. 

“Your hospital may be liable for negligently credentialing the physician and failing to exercise appropriate professional judgment, among other potential regulatory and civil violations, if you permit [the doctor] to perform an unlawful abortion,” Paxton wrote. 

Paxton’s letter states that the court order will not shield the doctor, the hospital, or anyone else from civil or criminal liabilities, which could include first-degree felony prosecutions and fines of at least $100,000 for each violation. It adds that the order would also not prevent legal action brought by private citizens or the enforcement of Texas’ pre-Roe laws by a district or county attorney. 

The court order claims that the woman who is seeking an abortion qualifies for the medical exemption in Texas law, stating that her “life, health, and fertility are currently at serious risk” if she continues with the pregnancy. 

The order states that the doctor “reviewed [the woman’s] medical records and believes in good faith, exercising her best medical judgment, that [an] … abortion is medically recommended … and that the medical exception to Texas’ abortion bans and laws permit an abortion in [her] circumstances.”

However, Paxton said in his letter that the court’s reasoning is not based on “the legal standard” necessary to allow a medical exception for an abortion, which requires “reasonable medical judgment and a life-threatening physical condition.” He said the order fails to identify a specific life-threatening medical condition and does not explain “how the unidentified condition places [the woman] at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless the abortion is performed or induced.”

“The temporary ruling fails to show that [the doctor] meets all of the elements necessary to fall within an exception to Texas’ abortion laws,” Paxton said. “[The judge] is not medically qualified to make this determination and it should not be relied upon. A [temporary restraining order] is no substitute for a medical judgment.”

Texas prohibits most abortions in almost all circumstances, except when the life of the mother is at risk or the physical health of the mother is seriously threatened. The woman who is seeking an abortion is about 20 weeks pregnant with her third child. The unborn child was diagnosed with trisomy 18. Only about 5%-10% of babies born with this condition will live past their first birthday.