Apr 2, 2024 - News

North Texas couple becomes unlikely face of abortion rights movement

Two women shaking hands with one woman in the middle

Kate Cox (middle) joined first lady Jill Biden (right) and women's rights activist Maria Shriver (left) at the State of the Union address in Washington on March 7. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Kate and Justin Cox would have welcomed a baby girl — their third child — this spring if their pregnancy had gone smoothly.

  • Instead, the Dallas-area couple became a "reluctant face" of the abortion rights movement, a new Time story says.

Why it matters: Texas' abortion restrictions have created confusion and fear among some doctors over how to treat complicated pregnancies where urgency is needed.

  • "Kate was the first time since Roe was overturned that a woman who was currently pregnant, needing an abortion under the health exemption, went to a court to get a court order for an abortion," Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup told the magazine.

Flashback: The Coxes weren't really paying attention to abortion politics before their third pregnancy. They assumed Texas' ban would have exceptions.

Threat level: Kate Cox was 18 weeks pregnant last year when she learned that the baby may have Trisomy 18, a rare disease with a high risk of a congenital heart defect and death.

  • The couple learned about more defects after several tests and were told that the baby was likely to die in utero or shortly after birth.
  • Cox's doctor told Time that she was also at "heightened risk" of hysterectomy, hemorrhage and uterine rupture. She had already gone to the emergency room several times during the pregnancy.
  • After considering the risks, the Coxes decided they wanted to terminate the pregnancy.

Yes, but: When she learned she wouldn't be able to get an abortion in Texas, Kate Cox reached out to the Center for Reproductive Rights for help. The center filed a lawsuit on her behalf to get answers from the legal system.

  • Cox was 20 weeks pregnant when a judge gave her permission to terminate the pregnancy. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the state Supreme Court to halt the lower court's order.
  • The Coxes decided to get an abortion in New Mexico instead of waiting longer for a final decision.
  • "I wanted to have my doctors that I trust close by. I wanted to be able to come home and hug my babies, and be close to my mom, and be able to cry on my own pillow," Kate Cox told Time.
  • The Supreme Court later ruled that Cox did not qualify for an abortion under the law's medical exception.

The other side: "Texas will proudly continue as a nationwide leader in the protection of the unborn, and the OAG will be steadfast in its mission of defending our state's pro-life laws," Paxton's office said last year.

The intrigue: Cox's son had just peed through his diaper when the Bidens called to invite her to last month's State of the Union.

  • "I certainly never thought I would get an opportunity to speak to the president. If I did, I didn't think it would be with pee down my side. That's how it goes for moms sometimes," Cox told Time.

What's next: The Texas Medical Board has proposed more guidance on abortions to doctors, though some critics have said it doesn't give enough clarity.

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