After a Travis County Judge granted a temporary restraining order for a woman seeking an abortion, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is warning doctors and hospitals that the state’s laws still apply. 

Kate Cox filed a lawsuit Tuesday, asking the State of Texas to allow her to abort her child due to a chromosomal abnormality called trisomy 18 that typically results in the child’s death before its first birthday.  

Although Trisomy 18, also called Edwards syndrome, often results in the child dying in the womb or shortly after birth, a small number of children with Edwards syndrome will live past their first birthday. 

Cox is arguing that the pregnancy is posing a risk to her health and future fertility. 

Travis County District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled Cox should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy. Additionally, Gamble ruled that Dr. Damla Karsan, a Houston OB/GYN, should be protected from civil and criminal penalties if she performs the procedure.

However, Paxton responded Thursday afternoon in a letter addressed to three Houston hospitals warning that the TRO does “not insulate hospitals, doctors, or anyone else, from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws.”

“While the TRO purports to temporarily enjoin actions brought by the OAG and TMB against Dr. Karsan and her staff, it does not enjoin actions brought by private citizens,” added Paxton. “Nor does it prohibit a district or county attorney from enforcing Texas’ pre-Roe abortion laws against Dr. Karsan or anyone else. The TRO will expire long before the statute of limitations for violating Texas’ abortion laws expires.”

Paxton also noted that Dr. Karsan “failed to follow” the hospital procedures for “determining whether Ms. Cox qualifies for the medical exception to Texas abortion laws.” 

Additionally, he said the lawsuit “fail[s] to establish that Ms. Cox qualifies for the medical exception to Texas’ abortion laws” while the TRO “fails to identify what ‘life-threatening’ medical condition” Cox has “that is aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy.”  

Paxton said it remains unclear how this “unidentified condition places Ms. Cox at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed or induced.” 

According to Texas Right to Life, the lawsuit is conflating the risk to the mother’s life with the child’s disability. 

“Ms. Cox’s story is heartbreaking because all of us recognize that she and her child are equally valuable and loved by God,” said Texas Right to Life Director of Media and Communication Kimberlyn Schwartz. “If you feel compassion for this situation like us, it is because we all know that there are two lives at stake and that both are supremely important. The answer is not to end the child’s life because of the baby’s disability, but state law does anticipate the serious risk to the mother.” 

Indeed, Right to Life explains that “if a pregnancy puts a woman at risk of rupture or future infertility, a doctor can intervene, as clearly described by the ‘medical emergency’ definition in state law that anticipates ‘serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.’”

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government and is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.