A Texas judge on Thursday allowed a woman with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy to have an abortion in a challenge to the US state's strict laws prohibiting the procedure.
District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said Kate Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, should be permitted to have an abortion under a provision of the Texas law that allows the procedure when a woman's health is at risk.
The case is one of a number brought around the country on behalf of women denied abortions since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, which had granted a constitutional right to the procedure.
Cox, a mother-of-two from Dallas-Fort Worth, learned last week that her foetus has full trisomy 18, a genetic condition that means her pregnancy may not last until birth and if it does her baby would live at most a few days.
Ultrasounds revealed multiple serious conditions including a twisted spine and irregular skull and heart development.
The 31-year-old Cox sued the state to obtain an abortion for a pregnancy that she and her doctors said threatens not only her life but her future fertility.
After a court hearing of less than an hour featuring arguments by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Cox, and an attorney for the state, Gamble said she would grant a temporary restraining order allowing Cox to get an abortion.
"The idea that Miss 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," the judge said.
Texas authorities are expected to appeal the decision and it is not clear when Cox can actually get an abortion.
A state "trigger" ban went into effect in Texas when Roe v. Wade was overturned, prohibiting abortions even in cases of rape or incest.
Texas physicians found guilty of providing abortions face up to 99 years in prison, fines of up to $100,000 and the revocation of their medical license.
The Texas law does allow abortions in rare cases where the mother's life could be at risk but physicians have said the wording is unclear and they risk serious legal consequences.
'Hands are tied'
Texas also has a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion.
Because of the way the Texas abortion law is formulated, Cox's physicians had told her their "hands are tied" and she would have to wait until her baby dies inside her.
Cox was joined in her lawsuit by her husband Justin - who is seeking a favorable legal ruling to assure he won't be prosecuted for assisting his wife in getting an abortion - as well as by obstetrician-gynecologist Damla Karsan who said she was willing to terminate the pregnancy with court approval.
The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments last week in a case brought on behalf of two doctors and 20 women who were denied abortions even though they had serious - in some cases life-threatening - complications with their pregnancies.
The lawsuit, also filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, argues that the way medical exceptions are defined under the conservative state's abortion restrictions is confusing, stoking fear among doctors and causing a "health crisis."
The Texas Supreme Court is expected to soon issue a decision whether to block the state's abortion bans in cases such as Cox's.