Texas judge intervenes to allow woman whose fetus has trisomy 18 to terminate pregnancy

Texas US state flag with statue of lady justice^ constitution and judge hammer on black drapery.
Texas US state flag with statue of lady justice^ constitution and judge hammer on black drapery.

On Thursday, a Texas judge granted permission for a woman to terminate her pregnancy due to her fetus being diagnosed with what doctors describe as a ‘fatal disorder’ – despite the state’s strict abortion ban. Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble handed down the temporary restraining order on Thursday.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the historic, emergency lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from the Dallas-area, who found out last week that her baby suffered from the chromosomal disorder trisomy 18, which usually results in either stillbirth or an early death of an infant. Cox’s doctors said continuing the nonviable pregnancy posed a risk to her health and future fertility.  Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, has been to three different emergency rooms in the past month, and her doctors have told her that early screening and ultrasound tests suggested her pregnancy is “unlikely to end with a healthy baby.” Due to Texas’ strict abortion bans, doctors told Cox their “hands are tied” and she would have to wait until the fetus dies inside her or carry the pregnancy to term.

The Texas Office of the Attorney General, which challenged Cox’s claims at Thursday’s hearing, may try to ask a higher court to intervene, issuing a statement saying the temporary restraining order “will not insulate hospitals, doctors, or anyone else, from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws.” Paxton’s office also included a letter sent to several medical centers outlining action it will take against doctors who perform an abortion.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Gamble’s decision – which only applies to Cox’s case – is believed to be the first time a judge has allowed a woman to legally get an abortion since the decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Texas has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country, and in 2021, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law SB8, which bans abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. A “trigger ban” also went into effect following the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling that made it a felony for doctors in the state to perform an abortion unless the life of the patient is in danger.

Editorial credit: Mehaniq / Shutterstock.com