Texas Supreme Court puts on hold order that granted pregnant woman’s request for abortion

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday agreed to pause a lower court ruling that would have allowed a pregnant woman whose fetus is unlikely to survive to get an abortion.

The ruling “administratively stays” the lower court’s order, meaning it pauses the decision that cleared Kate Cox, 31, to have an abortion. But it is not the final say and is not on the merits.

Cox, who is about 20 weeks pregnant, learned last month that her developing fetus has trisomy 18, a rare chromosomal disorder likely to cause stillbirth or the death of the baby shortly after it is born.

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Abortion rights demonstrators attend a rally at the Texas state Capitol in Austin, Texas, on May 14, 2022.Eric Gay / AP file

Texas law prohibits almost all abortions with limited exceptions. Lawyers on her behalf sought and successfully obtained an emergency order allowing Cox to have an abortion.

“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,” Molly Duane, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Cox, said in a statement.

State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble on Thursday granted the order for Cox, citing risks to Cox’s future fertility should she be forced to deliver the child.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, then asked the Texas Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay to block the judge’s order.

Duane, the attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, has argued that Cox’s life and future fertility are at risk.

“According to her doctor, the medical care that she needs is an abortion,” Duane said at a Thursday hearing.

The center said after Friday’s Supreme Court ruling that Cox was informed last week that her fetus “has no chance of survival.”

“Due to Kate’s medical history, her OB-GYNs warned her that continuing to carry the pregnancy could jeopardize her health and future fertility,” it said.

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment late Friday.

Paxton argued in court documents seeking to have the judge’s order vacated entirely that Cox does not meet the medical-emergency exemption to the state law restricting abortions.

He and his office also argued that Texas law does not permit abortions solely based on the fact that a fetus is unlikely to survive outside the womb.