For the first time since Roe v. Wade, an adult woman has been forced to seek abortion care outside of her home state after seeking permission from a court of law to obtain an abortion. Kate Cox, a Dallas resident, asked a Travis County judge to grant her an emergency abortion. On Dec. 5, an Austin court gave her permission to receive an abortion in an exemption to the very restrictive abortion law in Texas. Only a few days later on Dec. 8, the Texas Supreme Court overturned this decision. These events expose the bankruptcy of the political system and the lie that the far right is “pro-life.” Cox ultimately left the state to get the care she needed.
Texas officials try to force dangerous, non-viable pregnancy
Cox first went to the court in hopes that she would be offered an exemption from Texas’ extreme anti-abortion laws. Her fetus would not have been able to survive, and her ability to get pregnant again was at risk.
Her doctor diagnosed the fetus with Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome. This disorder occurs when a baby has an extra copy of chromosome 18. It results in many complications for the baby, including cardio-respiratory failure, feeding difficulties and hypertension. Ninety-five percent of fetuses with Trisomy 18 don’t survive to full term.
Her doctor also informed her that this condition could be fatal for her. “I’m trying to do what’s best for my baby and myself, but the state of Texas is making us both suffer,” she explained in an op-ed to the Dallas Morning News. As her overall health and condition declined, Cox had no other option but to leave the state. She obtained an abortion in Florida, where there is no ban and greater access for abortion. During her trip, the High Court came to a final decision that she wouldn’t have been granted permission.
Texas’s stance on abortion
This story is heartbreaking, but it is not shocking. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, the state of Texas has banned abortions. It is explicitly stated in SB 8 that the abortion of an “unborn child” with a detectable heartbeat is prohibited. There are only two exceptions included the law: 1) To save the life of the patient; or 2) To prevent substantial impairment of major bodily function.
Doctors that perform such procedures will be prosecuted, deterring them from providing their patients with proper reproductive care. In Kate Cox’s case, it leaves us wondering if the already narrow exceptions are just a sham, or if the law will allow people to receive abortions in order to save their lives.
Attorney General Ken Paxton was the first to oppose the exemption and has been relentless ever since. Shortly after finding out that the court ruled it acceptable for Cox to terminate her nonviable fetus, Paxton filed a petition Writ of Mandamus. Essentially, this is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion. He has also threatened hospitals and doctors. He has both called and sent letters stating, “The judge’s order will not insulate you, or anyone else from civil and criminal liability.” While his crusade has been toward Cox, the intention is to make her an example. Anyone who seeks exemption from the ban will face the consequences.
In contrast, Democratic figures have very briefly commented on this matter, including Congresswoman Veronica Escobar. She stated, “A Texas woman was just forced to beg for life-saving health care in court, and now any doctor who provides her the care she urgently needs is being threatened with punishment.” President Biden even spoke saying, “This should never happen in America, period.” Of course, as a longstanding member of the Democratic Party establishment, Biden along with his peers failed to take action when the Democrats controlled the national legislature to enshrine abortion into federal law, instead using the issue as a rallying point for elections.
A glimpse of what may come
While Cox should have been able to get abortion care in Texas, she was fortunate to be able to travel out of state. Many Texas citizens cannot physically or financially handle the burden of traveling to another state. Her case is just a glimpse of the current state and what’s to come. In the Turnaway Study conducted at the University of California, it was found that women who were denied abortions were more likely to end up living in poverty. Being denied abortion access was even worse for Black and Brown women. The study also found that women who were denied abortions and gave birth experienced more life threatening complications. For many, being denied an abortion means not just a possibility of hardship, but a promise.
This particular case has exposed the extremely reactionary state government in Texas where politicians can make decisions for anyone who needs abortion. It is the very thing we feared with the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The fight is not over. We must continue to speak out and organize. We have to continue to work to spread our message on the ground and build a movement to defend the right of bodily autonomy. It is imperative for us all to do our part on this path towards liberation.