WASHINGTON — Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas dodged questions Tuesday about Kate Cox, a mother of two who has drawn national attention after their state’s Supreme Court blocked her from getting an abortion after her fetus received a fatal diagnosis.
Cruz and Cornyn were notably skittish when they were asked to weigh in on Cox’s situation. Given multiple opportunities to respond to questions about the case from NBC News, both senators, who are fierce anti-abortion advocates, refused to comment on the Texas Supreme Court’s decision.
“I’m not a state official, so I’m not going to comment on what state officials are doing. I’m happy to comment on anything that I’m responsible for,” Cornyn said when he was asked whether he is worried that the health of women in his state may be at risk because of Texas law.
Cornyn, who used to sit on the Texas Supreme Court, was asked five separate times whether he supported the state’s move — he continued to double down on its not being his role as a federal official to opine.
Cruz, pressed about the case three separate times, repeatedly told NBC News to call his press office without engaging further. His office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. When following up in the Capitol on Wednesday, Cruz again declined to answer multiple questions about the case.
Cox found out when she was around 20 weeks pregnant that her fetus had been diagnosed with trisomy 18, a diagnosis that her doctors said is fatal to her fetus and that poses risks to her health and potential to have another child. Cox soon after sought a court order to receive an abortion procedure in Texas under the state’s “medical emergency” exception.
A state judge ruled last week that she could terminate her pregnancy, but the Texas Supreme Court overturned the ruling Monday. Cox had already decided to leave the state to receive the abortion procedure “due to the ongoing deterioration” of her health, said Molly Duane, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing her.
Cruz and Cornyn have championed their state’s restrictive abortion laws in the past; Texas bans almost all abortions, with limited exceptions for medical emergencies. After the fall of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Cruz called the Texas ban “a massive victory” in an interview with Fox News.
Abortion has proved to be a tough issue for Republicans electorally, and voters have consistently upheld abortion rights measures when they have been placed on the ballot in states like Ohio, Michigan and Kansas following Roe's reversal.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a rare pro-abortion-rights Republican in Congress, said she thought the Texas decision in Cox’s case was “terrible.”
“That this woman who is carrying a fetus that has a fatal abnormality that may affect her future ability to take care of children and to carry a child was forced to leave Texas to get a much-needed abortion is — it’s just inconceivable to me,” she said.
Asked about the politics of abortion, Cornyn acknowledged that “it’s in transition.”
“This should not be decided by the Supreme Court. It should be decided by the states, and different states are deciding it differently,” he said. “I think it will change over time as people — as elected officials try to understand where the voters are and what their wishes are on a highly sensitive and controversial topic, so it’ll work itself out.”
The Democratic challenger for Cruz’s Senate seat next fall, Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, said he wasn’t surprised to hear Cruz punted when he was asked about Cox’s case.
“This is the outcome of years of extremists’ pushing for us to be in this position where we are now, where abortion is banned in effectively all cases,” Allred said. “It’s outrageous. And we have to address it at the national level by codifying Roe v. Wade, which is what I’ll do in the Senate, versus Ted Cruz, who wants a national ban.”
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines, R-Mont., wouldn’t say whether he thought abortion would prove to be a liability for Cruz in Texas next year and argued that Republicans’ position on the issue resonates with the majority of voters.
“We do not support a federal ban on all abortions,” Daines said Tuesday. “Democrats who said we do, that’s a lie. Second, we believe there should be exceptions of rape, incest and health and life of the mother. Third, there should be reasonable limits placed on late-term abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother. Contrast that reasonable position to the Democrats’ position, which is to put no limits for taxpayer-funded abortions up until the very moment of birth.”
Before Roe v. Wade was overturned, Cruz was a lead sponsor of a 20-week federal abortion ban, with medical exceptions, which was backed by many of his GOP colleagues in the Senate. Republicans running in 2024 have repeatedly accused Democrats of supporting “on-demand” abortion until the moment of birth, though abortions late in pregnancy are exceedingly rare.
Ninety-three percent of abortions in the U.S. in 2020 took place during the first trimester, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while only 1% took place after 21 weeks, which is in the second trimester.