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Texas woman forced to carry high-risk pregnancy files lawsuit to have abortion

Andy Rose, CNN

(CNN) — A pregnant Texas woman who says her unborn baby has a genetic condition and carrying the child to term could threaten her life filed suit against the state Tuesday, asking a court to declare she has the right to terminate the pregnancy.

Kate Cox said the state’s current abortion ban puts her husband and her gynecologist at legal risk if she has an abortion in Texas.

The lawsuit is believed to be one of the first attempts in the country by an individual seeking a court-ordered abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, according to the New York Times.

“Ms. Cox is currently 20 weeks pregnant, and she has been to three different emergency rooms in the last month due to severe cramping and unidentifiable fluid leaks,” according to the lawsuit. “Because Ms. Cox has had two prior cesarean surgeries (‘C-sections’), continuing the pregnancy puts her at high risk for severe complications threatening her life and future fertility, including uterine rupture and hysterectomy.”

The lawsuit says Cox’s baby was diagnosed with trisomy 18 and is not expected to live more than a few days outside the womb. “Ms. Cox’s physicians have informed her that their ‘hands are tied’ and she will have to wait until her baby dies inside her or carry the pregnancy to term, at which point she will be forced to have a third C-section, only to watch her baby suffer until death,” the lawsuit states.

Trisomy 18, sometimes called Edwards syndrome, is a chromosomal condition that can cause heart defects and other organ abnormalities. In at least 95% of cases, the fetus doesn’t survive full-term, and the pregnancy ends in miscarriage or stillbirth, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Many children who are born with it die within a few days, and more than 90% die within a year.

Texas law prohibits abortion after approximately six weeks, except to save the life of the mother or to prevent “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, other than a psychological condition.” Cox – who is 20 weeks pregnant – said although she has gone to the emergency room three times with severe cramping, the law is too vague to make clear whether an abortion under those circumstances would be legal.

“I do not want to continue the pain and suffering that has plagued this pregnancy. I do not want to put my body through the risks of continuing this pregnancy,” Cox said in a written statement released by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit in Travis County.

Cox is asking the judge to issue a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction preventing the state from enforcing its abortion ban against her, her husband and her doctor.

“While Ms. Cox’s life may not be imminently at risk, she is at high risk for many serious medical conditions that pose risks to her future fertility and can become suddenly and unexpectedly life-threatening,” the lawsuit says.

It states Cox’s OB-GYN, Dr. Damla Karsan, has a “good faith belief” that Cox falls under the legal exception to the abortion ban, but can’t provide the abortion without a court order because she “cannot risk loss of her medical license, life in prison, and massive civil fines” if her belief is not accepted by the courts.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment Tuesday.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the likelihood of a fetus with trisomy 18 surviving full-term. Almost all fetuses with trisomy 18 don’t survive full-term, and pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth.

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