Physician groups tell court that pregnant woman “should not be compelled to endure the continued health risks posed by her pregnancy and the risk to future fertility should she be forced to carry her pregnancy to term”

         This morning, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) filed an emergency brief in the Texas Supreme Court urging the Court to permit a 31-year old pregnant woman and mother, Kate Cox, to obtain medically indicated abortion care necessary to protect her life, health, and future fertility. The brief comes on the heels of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s petition, which he filed in the Court last week after sending letters threatening criminal prosecution to three Texas hospitals, seeking to block a district judge’s order that would have allowed the care. Ms. Cox, who has experienced a number of complications during her pregnancy, received a devastating pregnancy diagnosis and her physicians have said that her fetus will likely not survive the pregnancy and that carrying the pregnancy to term is harmful to her. Late last week, the Texas Supreme Court issued an administrative stay of the district court’s order, effectively preventing Ms. Cox from accessing the medically necessary care in the state.

The brief urges the Texas Supreme Court to vacate the administrative stay and to deny the Attorney General’s request. The brief states that Ms. Cox faces a “current, emergent threat to her life, health, and future fertility, and to the wellbeing of her family” if she is unable to obtain abortion care. The brief also notes that the Attorney General’s “threats of enforcement of criminal and civil penalties against physicians and hospitals that owe a foundational ethical obligation to patients to provide basic, essential reproductive health care are endangering the provision of medical care in Texas and  the health and wellbeing of Texans.” The brief outlines the specific complexities and risks associated with Ms. Cox’s pregnancy diagnosis, full Trisomy 18, a lethal fetal anomaly that ends in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant mortality. 

“Today, we again find ourselves in the Texas Supreme Court outlining the harmful and dire consequences of the State’s abortion bans and the Attorney General’s threats of criminal prosecution of clinicians and hospitals that seek to provide necessary care,” said Molly Meegan, General Counsel of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. “Without immediate intervention, another pregnant woman in Texas will be forced to forego care or leave the state, potentially compounding one tragedy with another by exposing her to even more potential complications,” Meegan continued. 

“As physicians with decades of training and experience caring for high-risk pregnancies, maternal-fetal medicine physicians understand the substantial harms that patients, like Ms. Cox, face when they are denied access to abortion care, particularly in life-threatening situations,” said SMFM’s CEO, Christina Wurster, MBA, CAE. “Anti-abortion politicians claim to care about high-risk patients and, yet, their actions continue to cause them harm and threaten the clinicians that serve them. Attorney General Paxton’s immediate efforts to prevent Ms. Cox from accessing care confirms our fears and can have a chilling effect that will only increase the number of doctors hesitant and afraid to provide care in states with abortion bans. This has been their goal all along.”

“Instead of protecting the rights of Texans, Attorney General Paxton is using his office to threaten the life, health, and wellbeing of Texas women, mothers, and families.  By interfering in Ms. Cox’s medical case, the Attorney General has put her in clear and emergent danger and has sent a message to the state’s physicians that they will be punished if they care for those in need,” said Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward Foundation.  

The matter is In re State of Texas, No. 23-0994. ACOG is represented by Skye Perryman and Carrie Flaxman of Democracy Forward Foundation and Clark Richards of Richards Rodriguez & Skeith LLP.