Texas Attorney General threatens to prosecute over abortion despite judge’s ruling

December 8, 2023

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on Thursday threatened to prosecute any doctors who participate in an abortion for a woman who won a court order allowing her to obtain the procedure.

Paxton said in a letter that the order by District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin did not shield doctors from prosecution under all of Texas’s abortion laws, and that the pregnant woman, Kate Cox, had not shown she qualified for the medical exception to the state’s abortion ban.

The attorney general’s opinion counters that of Gamble, who handed down a restraining order earlier in the day to allow 31-year-old Cox to terminate her pregnancy after learning her fetus had a lethal abnormality that is almost always fatal at birth.

“The idea that Ms. Cox wants desperately to be a parent, and this law might actually cause her to lose that ability is shocking and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice,” Gamble said in issuing her ruling.

Paxton countered that the temporary order would “not insulate hospitals, doctors, or anyone else, from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws.”

Texas is one of at least 16 states that ban abortion after six weeks.

The state of Texas has further passed a so-called “bounty hunting scheme” that allows anyone to bring a lawsuit against someone who “aids or abets” in an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy—though a state judge in San Antonio has tossed out one lawsuit last December against a doctor who had admitted to violating the state’s abortion law.

The Texas law went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Doctors who provide abortions in Texas can face up to life in prison.

The judge’s ruling on Thursday applies only to Cox. It does not expand abortion access more broadly.

Paxton may try to appeal to a higher court, though he had not done so as of late Thursday.

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