Republished with permission from Lucian K. Truscott IV
Here’s one for a bright and sunny Saturday. A woman in Texas, Kate Cox, whose unborn baby has been diagnosed with trisomy 18, which is fatal to the fetus and can be dangerous and even fatal to the mother in most if not all cases, sued to get a Texas judge to allow her to get an abortion. Cox is 20 weeks pregnant and has been to the emergency room several times to be treated for pain and vaginal discharge caused by her pregnancy.
The judge granted her an exception to the Texas state ban on abortion because of the danger to her health and also because if she does not get an abortion, her ability to get pregnant again may be damaged by this pregnancy. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—he of the multiple federal fraud charges and an impeachment for misusing Texas taxpayer dollars—appealed to the Texas Supreme Court and got a stay of the lower court order allowing the woman to get an abortion.
The gynecologist and nurses and others who would necessarily be involved in the Cox’s abortion were afraid of being charged criminally if they administered an abortion and a prosecutor decided that their diagnosis didn’t meet the state’s standards for what is allowed under the “health and life of the mother” exception, which is poorly written, probably on purpose, to deter as many medically necessary abortions as possible.
In addition, the woman and her doctors and other care-givers would be subject to the other Texas law that allows individual citizens to sue anyone involved in helping a woman obtain an abortion, with no limit on the number of citizens who can file such lawsuits.
The word dystopian comes to mind, except this is happening right now in the state of Texas. A man, the Texas attorney general, has sued to prevent a woman who is in dire need of a medically necessary abortion from getting one.
Paxton went even further, sending a letter to three Houston hospitals where the woman’s doctor, Damla Karsan, has admitting privileges, warning them that any legal order allowing them to perform an abortion would not end or limit private citizens or state officials from filing civil or criminal lawsuits under any of the overlapping abortion laws in Texas. Paxton even went as far as mentioning the woman’s husband as one of those who might be sued criminally or civilly if his wife goes through with her abortion.
Paxton’s appeal to the Texas Supreme Court made the same threat: “Nothing will prevent enforcement of Texas’ civil and criminal penalties once the T.R.O. (Temporary Restraining Order) erroneously prohibiting enforcement is vacated,” Paxton wrote.
What this means is that the state holds every card in the deck in the game of Texas hold’em women are forced to play if they encounter a situation in their pregnancy whereby a doctor says they need a medically-necessary abortion to save their lives or their ability to bear children in the future. You say you are carrying a fetus in your womb that has already died? What’s that? You got a judge’s order on the Turn? We drew an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court on the River. You think you can get your abortion by calling and showing your hand? We’ve got four aces. What have you got?
I know I have used this metaphor before, but it just keeps coming up over and over again when Republicans are running things. In Texas, it’s heads I win, tails you lose every time when it comes to getting a legal abortion. If you get a court order saying it’s necessary for the health and life of the mother, Texas can appeal and string things out, and all the while, the mother whose life is in danger can’t get the abortion she needs not wants. And even if the Texas Supreme Court were to uphold the judge’s order and rule that the abortion is necessary and thus legal, Attorney General Paxton has announced that won’t be enough. He and individual Texas citizens can still file their lawsuits under Texas’ other law allowing damages to be gotten from anyone involved in the woman’s abortion, no matter that under Texas law the abortion is ruled legal.
So, there are women in Texas, caught in the grip of fear for their freedom and their lives, even if they follow the law to the letter and get a judge to certify the legality of the abortion they need. This is not the way the law is supposed to work in Texas or anywhere else.
A doctor’s word should be good enough by itself when it comes to a woman’s healthcare of any kind, but Republicans in Texas think that women and their doctors cannot be trusted to make their own decisions about the most profound issues of their health and reproductive rights, so the Republican-controlled legislature and the state’s Republican governor and its Republican attorney general have taken it upon themselves to decide what is necessary and what isn’t for Texas women.
If you live in Texas and you want to control your own reproductive health, including keeping your husband from being arrested if he helps you in your decision about what to do if you have an at-risk pregnancy, your only recourse is to move to another state that respects your rights.
If you don’t live in Texas, don’t move there. Your future will not be secure in a state that treats women like the cattle they think they’re famous for.
Lucian K. Truscott IV
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better.