The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a woman from obtaining an emergency abortion.
Kate Cox, 31, sought court authorisation for the abortion because her fetus was diagnosed with a genetic abnormality that usually results in miscarriage, stillbirth or death soon after birth.
The legal battle is a major test case since the US Supreme Court overturned the nationwide constitutional right to abortion when it struck down Roe v Wade last year.
A lower court in the state of Texas – which has a near complete ban on abortion – made a ruling allowing the emergency procedure.
However, the state’s highest court halted that decision after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton requested the block.
Ms Cox, who is about 20 weeks pregnant, said in her lawsuit that she would need to undergo her third cesarean section if she continues the pregnancy.
That could jeopardize her ability to have more children, which she said she and her husband want.
Although her doctors believed abortion was medically necessary for her, they were unwilling to perform one without a court order in the face of potential penalties, including life in prison and loss of their licenses, her lawsuit added.
“While we still hope that the Court ultimately rejects the state’s request and does so quickly, in this case we fear that justice delayed will be justice denied,” said Molly Duane, senior staff attorney at the Centre for Reproductive Rights.
Republican Mr Paxton, who had previously warned that any doctors involved in providing the emergency abortion would not be safe from prosecution, asked the Texas Supreme Court to intervene.
“Nothing can restore the unborn child’s life that will be lost as a result,” the court filing by Mr Paxton’s office said.
The state’s abortion ban includes only a narrow exception to save the mother’s life or prevent substantial impairment of a major bodily function.