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What we know about the legal case of a Texas woman denied the right to an immediate abortion

Last week, a Texas woman sued her home state for the right to obtain an abortion in a new kind of challenge to the bans that most Republican-controlled states have begun enforcing in the last year and a half since Roe v. Wade was overturned.
FILE - Demonstrators march and gather near the state capitol following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Austin, Texas. A pregnant Texas woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis asked a court Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, to let her terminate the pregnancy, bringing what her attorneys say is the first lawsuit of its kind in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Last week, a Texas woman sued her home state for the right to obtain an abortion in a new kind of challenge to the bans that most Republican-controlled states have begun enforcing in the last year and a half since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

The Texas Supreme Court denied Katie Cox's request on Monday.

But by then, her lawyers said, she had already traveled out of state for an abortion.

Here's what we know about her case.


The 31-year-old mother of two children — ages 3 and 1 — and her husband want additional children and they were glad to learn she was pregnant.

But tests confirmed late last month that the baby she was carrying had a condition called trisomy 18, an extra chromosome that made it likely the baby would die in utero or shortly after birth.

She had a hard pregnancy, with several trips to an emergency room. By the time she filed her lawsuit last week, she was 20 weeks pregnant.

She said in court filings that delivering the baby at full term by cesarean surgery would carry a risk of uterine rupture, which would endanger any future pregnancies.


Texas has multiple abortion bans in place.

The state allows abortion in cases where doctors determine it necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman. Unlike at least three other states with bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, there is no exception in Texas for fatal fetal anomalies.

Doctors convicted of providing illegal abortions can face steep consequences: up to 99 years in prison, $100,000 fines and losing their medical licenses.


The trisomy 18 diagnosis came Nov. 28, the same day the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in another case brought by a group of physicians and women who were denied abortions.

The state Supreme Court has not ruled on their challenge, which calls for clarification of the exceptions in the state's bans, which the plaintiffs say are so vague that doctors are fearful of providing abortions under virtually any circumstance.

Hearing about that led her to the lawyers representing those women.

But her case is different. While the other plaintiffs contend that they were hurt by the state's policies, Cox was seeking the right to an immediate abortion.

Like the others, Cox says doctors told her they could not provide her an abortion because of state law.


On Friday, an Austin-based judge elected as a Democrat granted Cox permission to receive an abortion, but the state attorney general warned that anyone who provided one could still face legal consequences.

Later that day, the Texas Supreme Court put the lower court's order on hold. Monday evening, the high court ruled against Cox, finding her pregnancy complications did not constitute the kind of medical emergency under which abortions are allowed.

“Some difficulties in pregnancy,” the court said in an order that was not signed but to which two of the justices said they concurred, “even serious ones, do not pose the heightened risks to the mother that the exception encompassed.”

Even before that ruling was issued Monday, Cox's lawyers said she had traveled out of state for an abortion.


A ruling by a Texas court regarding a Texas law does not apply elsewhere.

But in the week since Cox sued, a pregnant woman sued her home state, Kentucky, for the right to an immediate abortion. That woman, who filed under a pseudonym, is challenging the constitutionality of Kentucky's ban. But on Tuesday, her lawyers said her embryo no longer had cardiac activity. The lawyers said they would continue the case.

Rachel Rebouché, an associate dean at Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, said it's hard for pregnant women to bring these suits.

But when they do, she said: “It throws into sharp relief what’s at stake. No one’s speaking for the pregnant woman, they’re speaking for themselves.”

Geoff Mulvihill, The Associated Press