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A Texas judge grants permission for woman's abortion


A Texas judge yesterday granted a pregnant woman a temporary restraining order that would allow her to seek an abortion. This is part of a challenge to one of the state abortion bans made possible since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit on behalf of a Dallas area woman who discovered her fetus had a condition that is almost always fatal. Joining us now from Texas is Olivia Aldridge. She covers health care for our member station, KUT in Austin. Good morning.


INSKEEP: OK. So what is this case, and who is the person at the center of it?

ALDRIDGE: Yeah. This is Cox v. Texas. And in the order issued by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, a temporary restraining order, she not only allowed the woman at the center of this case, Kate Cox, to get an abortion but also said that a specific doctor - and that's Dr. Damla Karsan - can give her that abortion. That's significant because doctors are liable under Texas abortion laws. If they're found in violation they can face significant jail time and fines such that many doctors just say they aren't willing to risk doing this procedure even if they believe the pregnancy is putting the person's health in danger.

INSKEEP: OK. So the doctor has been named as someone who was cleared, at least by the judge, to do this. What does the order mean for the woman seeking the abortion, Kate Cox?

ALDRIDGE: Well, the judge's order is temporary. It expires on December 21. She's a 31-year-old mother of two. And she said part of her reason for seeking an abortion was to protect her ability to carry another pregnancy. You know, as we noted, her fetus has a really devastating diagnosis. And doctors have said that delivery could hurt her ability to have another child. But as for, you know, specific plans for moving forward with an abortion, she and her lawyers aren't sharing any specific information right now just because of safety concerns.

INSKEEP: OK. So this is a ruling by a judge. But of course, in Texas, there is also an elected attorney general, Republican Ken Paxton, who has championed these abortion bans. How is he responding?

ALDRIDGE: Well, with this kind of temporary restraining order, Paxton can't immediately appeal. He did send a letter addressed to three hospitals in Houston where Dr. Karsan has privileges and basically warned those facilities that they can still be liable if they facilitate this abortion happening. Now, Marc Hearron, who's senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, called that fear mongering and just a misrepresentation of the order. But, you know, Paxton's letter may have a chilling effect on hospitals and doctors. This is the first case of its kind in Texas since abortion was banned. So we kind of have to wait and see how it plays out from here.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Olivia, I guess we should note how very, very specific this temporary restraining order is. It deals with one woman, one request for an abortion and even one specific doctor. But do abortion rights advocates and opponents think there will be wider implications here?

ALDRIDGE: Yeah. The lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights, which, again, filed the case, say that even though this is a victory for Kate Cox, who this order applies to, it can't be the new normal in general because it often just isn't realistic for women who need emergency abortions to go through a time consuming legal process when their health is at stake. You know, there's a ticking clock. They are hoping that doctors will get the clarity they need soon to be able to confidently give emergency abortions without fear of liability, and they hope to get that clarity between this case and another that's now before the Texas Supreme Court. You know, and as for abortion opponents, the Texas Alliance for Life said that they think this case was an attempt to use the medical exemption to progressively just, quote, "chisel away at Texas abortion laws."

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks for the update. That's Olivia Aldridge, who covers health care for KUT in Austin, Texas. Good morning to you. Thank you.

ALDRIDGE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Olivia Aldridge