Watch CBS News

Texas Supreme Court temporarily halts ruling allowing Dallas woman to have abortion

Attorney General Ken Paxton asks Texas Supreme Court to keep Dallas woman from having abortion
Attorney General Ken Paxton asks Texas Supreme Court to keep Dallas woman from having abortion 03:44

UPDATE DEC. 8: The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily halted a lower court ruling that would have allowed Kate Cox, a Dallas woman with severe pregnancy complications, to have an abortion to protect her health and future fertility. The court said they will weigh in on the matter and stayed the lower court ruling until they have more time to consider the case, according to The Center for Reproductive Rights. 

On Dec. 7, a state court ruled in Cox's favor, but within hours, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Texas Supreme Court to block the order immediately and stop her from having an abortion. Paxton also issued a letter threatening to prosecute any doctor who gave Cox an abortion, despite the court order. 

AUSTIN - Attorney General Ken Paxton is taking a controversial abortion case to the Texas Supreme Court.

Kate Cox, 31 Center for Reproductive Rights

He has asked the state's highest court to block Kate Cox, 31, of Dallas woman from terminating her pregnancy, now in its 20th week. A Travis County judge granted a temporary restraining order Thursday that would allow Cox to have the procedure.

She and her lawyers have said her nonviable pregnancy is putting her own life and her ability to have children in the future in jeopardy.

Cox's attorneys and the Attorney General's Office disagree over whether her case qualifies for the state's medical exception to have an abortion.

Appellate attorney David Coale of Dallas, who's not involved in the case, told CBS News Texas that the temporary restraining order provides legal protection until days before Christmas. 

"It is only good for two weeks."

He said it will temporarily keep Paxton and government officials from prosecuting or seeking damages against Cox's doctor and the hospital where the procedure would take place. Cox's attorney said Thursday she believes that protection would be binding. 

"The judge today was quite clear that she intends her order to protect Mr. Cox as well as Dr. Karsan and any staff that is acting to facilitate care for Ms. Cox."

But Paxton said the judge's ruling was wrong under the law.

The state bans most abortions with the exception of the mother's life being at risk -- and the law allows doctors to be prosecuted, fined, and have their licenses taken away. Another law, the Texas Heartbeat Act, allows private citizens to file civil lawsuits against those who perform abortions and facilitate them.

Coale said that could prove to be a problem for Cox, her doctor, and health care providers going forward. "The hospital, the doctors, the husband and so on can certainly site that order and it may be persuasive to a judge down the road somewhere, but it may not be. It's not designed to be an absolute defense for all time."

Paxton sent a letter to Cox's doctor and three Houston hospitals Thursday. "...The TRO will not insulate you, or anyone else from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas' abortion laws, including first degree felony prosecutions and civil penalties of not less than $100,000 for each violation.. A TRO is no substitute for medical judgment."

One of the hospitals that received Paxton's letter, The Woman's Hospital of Texas, sent CBS News Texas a statement that said in part, "We received the letter sent by the Attorney General to Houston hospitals and are monitoring this complex and rapidly evolving legal case. Our focus remains on our patients and the community we serve."

In response Friday, the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Cox and her doctor accused Paxton of fear mongering. "...He is trying to bulldoze the legal system to make sure Kate and pregnant women like her continue to suffer."

Coale said if Cox were his client, he'd offer this advice: "To be really sure and really minimize your risk, you just need to leave Texas."

He said she should go to a state where abortion is legal.

Cox's lawyers filed a response to Paxton's request at the Texas Supreme Court.

They have not said when and where she was planning to have the procedure.

Last week, the Supreme Court held a hearing on a similar, but larger case involving 20 women who sued the state of Texas claiming the laws are vague when it comes to medical exceptions involving complicated pregnancies.

A ruling in that case is expected by June.

Follow Jack on X: @cbs11jack 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.