Opinion: The Kate Cox Tragedy Reveals Abortion Ban Exemptions as a Thin Sham

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The tragic tale of medical torture deliberately being inflicted on a U.S. citizen by Republicans in Texas is gruesome, but it also reveals that abortion ban exemptions are a very thin sham meant to appease on the surface only. They aren’t meant to actually be used.

Kate Cox was informed by her doctor that her fetus had a fatal genetic condition and furthermore, that carrying the pregnancy to term could threaten her fertility. A lower court determined that she should be given an abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Cox, says she has been to the ER over this pregnancy four times and could no longer wait for medical care as the case is fought in the legal system.

So Kate Cox was forced to flee Texas after Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, a man embattled with plenty of scandals and thus the exact kind of man one would guess would be behind trying to control a woman’s body, threatened hospitals with prosecution if doctors treated her as they saw fit. Paxton argued that Cox’s case did not meet “all of the elements necessary to fall within an exception to Texas’ abortion laws” noting, seemingly without self awareness, that the judge was “not medically qualified to make this determination.”

Ken Paxton is not a doctor, either, and yet he claimed to know that Kate Cox’s case did not qualify for an exemption.

The Texas State Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s decision allowing Cox to have an abortion because they felt her doctor’s informed opinion of required medical treatment did not meet the threshold of requiring “more than a doctor’s subjective belief.” They went so far as to question the reasonable medical objectivity of Cox’s doctor, who is a woman.

The all-Republican State Supreme Court offered up the heartwarming suggestion that Kate Cox should just wait until she develops a “life-threatening physical condition,” and then she wouldn’t have to fight in court to qualify for an exemption from their abortion ban.

Yes, wait until you’re near death and have lost your fertility. That’s the message of “pro-life” Republicans. Does that sound like an exemption to you? Wait until your life is in danger and you’ve endured medical pain most men cannot comprehend, and then you liberty-enjoying citizens can get care in this, the land of the “free.”

Kate Cox didn’t meet the requirements for the exemptions Republicans offer up as proof that they don’t hate women and girls. These exemptions are meant to address the glaring flaws in the government interfering in medical freedom of its citizens, but only on the surface. Only as a form of argument and justification, not as actual practice.

Attorney Lisa Rubin explained, “Instead, it maintained, no court order is necessary or even advisable for a woman seeking an abortion under the exception. But a doctor can perform the procedure only if his or her medical judgment is objectively reasonable. In other words, make the call, MDs—and then pay the legal price later. Shifting blame to doctors doesn’t obscure the reality here: The ambiguity — and the potential penalties for doctors — is exactly the point.”

Essentially, all of the legal bullying around the exemption is meant to chill doctors and hospitals from providing the care their education and judgement informs them is necessary.

The Texas Supreme Court claim that Kate Cox was not in enough danger, with a smug dismissal of her medical torture and pain: “Any parent would be devastated to learn of their unborn child’s Trisomy 18 diagnosis. Some difficulties in pregnancy, however, even serious ones, do not post the heightened risks to the mother the exception encompasses.”

Republicans are inserting their uneducated judgment to have authority over-educated, expert assessments made by patients own treating doctors. Why are they doing this? If they really cared about life, wouldn’t they deeply respect medical experts?

“It is unacceptable that in 2023, people should have to fear persecution by their own government simply for accessing the health care their doctors say they need. The truth is: any one of us could be Kate. Every one of us should be outraged,” the Center for Reproductive Rights commented on Monday.

Kate Cox is baffled that she has to leave her home state to get medical care, writing, “I am a Texan. Why should I or any other woman have to drive or fly hundreds of miles to do what we feel is best for ourselves and our families, to determine our own futures?”

All of this comes down to the fact that abortion ban exemptions were put in to appease and make the medicine of fascist-style control over citizens’ bodies go down easier; they were never meant to be used.

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