US President Joe Biden said it was “outrageous” that a woman was forced to leave Texas to seek an emergency abortion, after the state’s courts said she could not terminate her risky pregnancy.
“No woman should be forced to go to court or flee her home state just to receive the health care she needs. But that is exactly what happened in Texas thanks to Republican elected officials, and it is simply outrageous,” Biden said in a White House statement.
Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two from Dallas, is more than 20 weeks pregnant with a fetus with a rare genetic defect, full trisomy 18, which means it will likely die before birth or at most live a few days.
Doctors say failure to terminate the pregnancy could cause a rupture to Cox’s uterus, threatening her future fertility and her life.
Because of the strict abortion laws in Texas, she sued the state last week. After lawyers on both sides argued over whether Cox should be able to get the procedure, a judge in Travis County ruled in her favor.
But the state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. Paxton also threatened to prosecute any doctor carrying out the abortion.
On Monday Cox left the state to seek an emergency abortion — and hours later the Texas Supreme Court issued an order siding with the government and reversing the lower court’s decision.
“This past week of legal limbo has been hellish for Kate,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the case on behalf of Cox, her husband and physician, said at the time.
The US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion nationwide last year, leaving states free to create their own laws around the procedure.
A Texas state “trigger” ban went into immediate effect after the 2022 ruling, prohibiting abortions even in cases of rape or incest. Texas also has a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion.
Texas physicians found guilty of providing abortions face up to 99 years in prison, fines of up to $100,000 and the revocation of their medical license.
While the state does allow abortions in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, physicians have said that in practice the wording is vague and unclear, leaving them open to legal consequences for exercising their medical judgment.
Since last year’s Supreme Court ruling, abortion — always a hot-button issue in the United States — has become even more of a political flashpoint.
Campaigns to enshrine the right to the procedure have notched wins even in conservative states, as voters are faced with an alternative of strict prohibition.
Some politicians who once campaigned whole-heartedly against abortion rights are now trying to tow a softer line — with 2024 presidential contender Nikki Haley telling in a recent Republican debate that it was unrealistic to seek a nationwide ban on abortion.