A Texas woman who is 20-weeks pregnant and whose foetus has been diagnosed with a fatal condition has asked a court to allow her to have an abortion.
Texas is one of 13 states that bans abortion at nearly all stages of pregnancy.
Kate Cox recently learned her unborn child is at a high risk of a genetic abnormality called trisomy 18, which typically does not result in a viable pregnancy.
The 31-year-old mother-of-two has started legal proceedings in Austin seeking a temporary restraining order allowing a doctor to perform an abortion without being prosecuted.
Doctors have told Ms Cox her baby is likely to be stillborn or live for a week at most, according to court papers.
The documents also say because she has already had two previous caesarean sections, she would need to have a third one if she continues the pregnancy, which could jeopardise her ability to have more children.
“Yet because of Texas’s abortion bans, 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 court papers said.
“Kate Cox needs an abortion, and she needs it now.”
The legal action is believed to be the first time a woman has sought a court order authorising an abortion since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v Wade 1973 ruling which legalised abortion nationwide.
Although Texas allows exceptions, doctors and women have argued in court this year that the state’s law is so restrictive and vaguely worded that physicians are afraid of providing abortions for fear they could face potential criminal charges.
Ms Cox has urged the court to rule “expeditiously”.
“It is not a matter of if I will have to say goodbye to my baby, but when,” she said in a statement.
“I’m trying to do what is best for my baby and myself, but the state of Texas is making us both suffer.”
In July, several Texas women gave emotional testimony about carrying babies they knew would not survive and doctors unable to offer abortions despite their spiralling conditions.
A judge later ruled the abortion ban in Texas was too restrictive for women with pregnancy complications – but that decision was swiftly put on hold after the state appealed against it.
Molly Duane, Ms Cox’s lawyer who is also a legal representative for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said: “How many people are going through the exact same thing as Kate is right now but are not in a position to file a lawsuit?
“I think that gives you a sense of the scale of the problem that we’re dealing with.”