AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A pregnant Texas woman whose fetus has a fatal diagnosis asked a court Tuesday to let her have an abortion, bringing what her attorneys say is the first lawsuit of its kind in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.
Texas is one of 13 states that ban abortion at nearly all stages of pregnancy. Although Texas allows exceptions, doctors and women have argued in court this year that the state's law is so restrictive and vaguely worded that physicians are fearful of providing abortions lest they face potential criminal charges.
Kate Cox, 31, is 20 weeks pregnant and has been told by doctors that her baby is likely to be stillborn or live for a week at most, according to the lawsuit filed in Austin. The suit says doctors told her their “hands are tied” under Texas' abortion ban.
“Kate Cox needs an abortion, and she needs it now,” the lawsuit reads.
Spokespersons for the Texas attorney general's office, which has defended the ban in court, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Molly Duane, Cox's lawyer and an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Tuesday that a court has not yet scheduled a hearing but one could happen later this week.
The lawsuit was filed a week after the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments about whether the ban is too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications. That case is among the biggest ongoing challenges to abortion bans in the U.S., although a ruling from the all-Republican court may not come for months.
Cox, a mother of two, had cesarean sections with her previous pregnancies. She learned she was pregnant for a third time in August and was told weeks later that her baby was at a high risk for a condition known as trisomy 18, which has a very high likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth and low survival rates, according to the lawsuit.
Doctors told Cox that if the baby's heartbeat were to stop, inducing labor would carry a risk of a uterine rupture because of her prior cesareans, and that another C-section at full term would would endanger her ability to carry another child.
“It is not a matter of if I will have to say goodbye to my baby, but when. I’m trying to do what is best for my baby and myself, but the state of Texas is making us both suffer,” Cox said in a statement.
In July, several Texas women gave emotional testimony about carrying babies they knew would not survive and doctors unable to offer abortions despite their spiraling 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.
Duane said Cox reached out last week after coming across news stories following the hearing at the state Supreme Court. The arguments were held on the same day that Cox received results of an amniocentesis that confirmed prior tests about her pregnancy.
“How many people are going through the exact same thing as Kate is right now but are not in a position to file a lawsuit?” Duane said in an interview. "I think that gives you a sense of the scale of the problem that we're dealing with."
Paul J. Weber, The Associated Press