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Texas judge grants pregnant woman permission to get an abortion despite state's ban

Published:Thursday | December 7, 2023 | 12:56 PM
Abortion rights demonstrators attend a rally at the Texas state Capitol in Austin, Texas, May 14, 2022. A pregnant Texas woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis asked a court Tuesday, December 5, 2023, to let her terminate the pregnancy, bringing what her attorneys say is the first lawsuit of its kind in the US since Roe v Wade was overturned last year.(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge on Thursday granted a pregnant woman permission to obtain an abortion in an unprecedented challenge to the state's ban that took effect after Roe v Wade was overturned last year.

It was unclear how quickly or whether Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from the Dallas area, will be able to obtain an abortion. State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, an elected Democrat, said she would grant a temporary restraining order that would allow Cox to have an abortion under what are narrow exceptions to the state's ban. That decision is likely to be appealed by the state.

Cox is 20 weeks pregnant and doctors say her foetus has a fatal diagnosis. In a brief emergency hearing Thursday, her attorneys told Gamble that Cox went to an emergency room this week for a fourth time since her pregnancy.

Cox and her husband both attended the hearing via Zoom but did not address the court. Doctors have told Cox that if the baby's heartbeat were to stop, inducing labour would carry a risk of a uterine rupture because of her prior cesareans sections, and that another C-section at full term would endanger her ability to carry another child.

"This law might actually cause her to lose that ability is shocking and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice," Gamble said.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation since the US Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v Wade, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Cox.

Since that landmark ruling, Texas and 12 other states rushed to ban abortion at nearly all stages of pregnancy. Opponents have sought to weaken those bans — including an ongoing Texas challenge over whether the state's law is too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications — but until now, a woman has not gone to court seeking approval for an immediate abortion.

In July, several Texas women gave emotional testimony about carrying babies they knew would not survive and doctors unable to offer abortions despite their spiralling conditions. A judge later ruled that Texas' ban was too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications, but that decision was swiftly put on hold after the state appealed.

More than 40 woman have received abortions in Texas since the ban took effect, according to state health figures, none of which have resulted in criminal charges. There were more than 16,000 abortions in Texas in the five months prior to the ban taking effect last year.

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