News & Commentary

Pregnant mother at heart of Texas abortion case flees state after high court’s stay

(OSV News) — Days after the Texas Supreme Court temporarily stayed a district judge’s Dec. 7 ruling allowing a pregnant mother to obtain an abortion under an exemption to its ban, the woman’s attorneys report she has left Texas arguing her health and future fertility were at stake.

The high court’s one-page order, issued on the evening of Dec. 8, put a hold on Judge Maya Guerra Gamble’s 14-day temporary restraining order, issued Dec. 7, permitting Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from the Dallas area, to have a “dilation and evacuation” abortion under narrow exceptions to Texas’ ban.

The Texas Supreme Court’s stay was issued “without regard” for the merits of the case, which is still pending.

On Dec. 11, attorneys representing Cox said she traveled out of state to undergo the procedure legally since the state’s highest court “has yet to issue a final ruling on this time-sensitive matter.”

“After a week of legal whiplash and threats of prosecution from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, our client Kate Cox has been forced to flee her home state of Texas to get the time-sensitive abortion care needed to protect her health and future fertility,” the Center for Reproductive Rights, the public interest firm representing Cox, wrote on social media.

In her lawsuit, Cox sought permission from a judge to undergo an abortion after her unborn baby was diagnosed with trisomy 18, alleging the pregnancy was also putting her life at risk as well as her hopes for future children. The genetic condition, also known as Edwards syndrome, often leads to miscarriage and stillbirth, with a 90-95% mortality rate for babies within the first year after birth. Her attorneys said that earlier the same week, Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, went to an emergency room for a fourth time during her pregnancy.

The Texas lawsuit is seen as an unprecedented challenge to a state abortion ban since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning prior precedent making abortion access a constitutional right. Cox’s lawsuit is reportedly the first seeking permission for an abortion from a judge since that ruling.

A second such lawsuit post-Dobbs is also taking place in Kentucky. On Dec. 8, an unnamed Kentucky woman filed a class-action lawsuit against two of that state’s abortion bans, one of which makes abortion illegal unless necessary to save the mother’s life or to “prevent the serious, permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ” in her. The state’s six-week ban prohibits abortion once the baby’s heartbeat has been detected, with exceptions only permitted in case of a medical emergency. The American Civil Liberties Union is among the groups representing the woman, who is approximately eight weeks pregnant and is named in the suit only as “Jane Doe.”

Following the Dobbs decision, which returned the matter of regulating or restricting abortion back to the legislative branch, U.S. Catholic bishops have reiterated the church’s concern for both mother and child, while emphasizing Catholic teaching that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death. As such, the church opposes direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.

In a recent editorial published in The Dallas Morning News, Cox wrote, “An abortion was not something I ever imagined I would want or need; I just never thought I’d be in the situation I’m in right now. Twenty weeks pregnant with a baby that won’t survive and could jeopardize my health and a future pregnancy.”

“I do not want to continue the pain and suffering that has plagued this pregnancy or continue to put my body or my mental health through the risks of continuing this pregnancy,” Cox wrote. “I do not want my baby to arrive in this world only to watch her suffer.”

Following the district judge’s temporary order, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Dec. 7 warned Houston hospitals, doctors and anyone else involved in procuring an abortion for Cox that they risked “civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws.”

Gamble’s order had summoned the involved parties for a Dec. 20 hearing to discuss a permanent injunction before her temporary order expired.

In an email to OSV News, Kimberlyn Schwartz, director of media and communication for Texas Right to Life, said, “We mourn the loss of Baby Cox, and we want parents to know that there is hope in their grief when facing difficult fetal illnesses.”

“There are life-affirming options rather than abortion,” Schwartz said. “Nonprofits across America, such as Abel Speaks (, help parents honor their children’s lives when facing a life-limiting diagnosis.”

By Kate Scanlon | OSV News