Texas Denied Her Abortion Care. She Threw Up In Court Recalling Her Trauma.

Several Texas women suing the state over what they say are deeply confusing restrictions shared their harrowing stories in court on Wednesday.

AUSTIN, Texas — At a courthouse in Texas, the same state where the seed of nationwide abortion access was planted more than 50 years ago, a group of women once again stood up to share their gripping and emotional experiences of being denied abortion care.

One woman vomited on the stand as she recalled the stress of remaining pregnant for months while knowing her baby could never survive outside the womb. Many observers seated in the courtroom had tears in their eyes throughout the day.

Like others around the country, pregnant Texans have faced an intimidating legal landscape since the US Supreme Court overturned its decision in Roe v Wade last summer.

On Wednesday, several of the women currently suing the state of Texas over its severe abortion restrictions appeared at the Travis County Civil and Family Courthouse to oppose the state’s motion to dismiss their case.

Backed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group petitioned the court for an injunction against Texas abortion law, which forbids the procedure except in very narrow cases when the pregnant patient’s life is imminently at risk.

The group ultimately aims to clarify the scope of the law, which went into effect shortly after Roe fell. Another state anti-abortion law gives regular citizens the ability to sue their neighbors over pregnancy termination.

Several of the women in the lawsuit, filed in March, faced similar diagnoses that meant their children would not develop a proper skull and brain tissue. They say their doctors were unable to provide adequate care, their hands tied by state law.

“I had to watch my baby suffer,” plaintiff Samantha Casiano said on Wednesday, sobbing. She was not able to abort the pregnancy in Texas because the foetus still had a heartbeat, and instead carried the sick child to term earlier this year.

“The moment my daughter came out of me, she was gasping for air — that’s all she could do,” Casiano said. “I just kept telling my baby, ‘I’m so sorry this had to happen to you.’ There was no mercy there for her.” The girl, named Halo, died after around four hours, never meeting her four siblings.

A representative for the Center for Reproductive Rights told HuffPost she believed Wednesday’s hearing before Judge Jessica Mangrum was the first of its kind since Roe v Wade was filed in Dallas in the 1970s.

Plaintiff Ashley Brandt, who was pregnant with twins last year, was able to abort one foetus that was not growing a skull, eventually giving birth to one healthy daughter. But she had to flee to Colorado to do so. The procedure took 10 minutes.

Had she not been able to terminate the unhealthy foetus, Brandt said, her otherwise healthy daughter may have died. She would have had to experience something similar to the trauma Casiano endured.

“I would have had to give birth to an identical version of my daughter without a skull and without a brain, and then I would have had to hold her until she died,” Brandt said through tears. “And then I would have had to sign a death certificate and plan a funeral, and decide whether to bury or cremate her.”

Brandt said she did not blame the Texas obstetrician or the specialists she saw, saying that state law “does not take cases like mine into consideration.”

“I don’t feel safe to have children in Texas anymore,” Brandt said. “It was very clear that my health didn’t really matter, and my daughter’s health didn’t matter.”

“I don’t feel safe to have children in Texas anymore. It was very clear that my health didn’t really matter, and my daughter’s health didn’t matter.”

- Ashley Brandt

Attorneys for defendants including suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Texas Medical Board seemed to suggest in court that the plaintiffs’ frustrations were misplaced — that they were simply given bad medical advice, which was not the fault of Paxton or the others.

The defense asked whether any of the women planned to pursue medical malpractice suits (they did not). They asked whether the women knew about the exceptions in the law (their awareness varied).

Plaintiffs’ attorney Molly Duane told Judge Mangrum that the state’s abortion exception “simply does not function in practice,” pointing to her clients’ experiences.

The consequences of being found in violation of state law — steep six-figure fines, prison time and the loss of medical licenses — make many medical professionals hesitant to provide abortion care, even when it would benefit their pregnant patients.

“This is care they must receive if Texas can ever claim to be a pro-life state,” Duane said.

“We should not be torturing babies and calling it pro-life,” Lauren Miller, a plaintiff who did not testify, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Another plaintiff, Amanda Zurawski, testified in detail about her harrowing near-fatal experience with a pregnancy she was also not permitted to terminate in Texas, despite having lost most of her amniotic fluid at 17 weeks. She was told the foetus would not survive.

“I wanted to start the health care process. I wanted to start the grieving process,” Zurawski said, noting that she and her husband had bought a new house in anticipation of their first baby’s arrival.

But since her foetus still had a heartbeat, Zurawski’s doctor told her all she could do was wait for its inevitable death, putting her at risk of sepsis.

While she could have gone out of state for an abortion, Zurawski’s health had deteriorated to the point where her doctor told her not to travel more than 20 minutes beyond the hospital. The nearest out-of-state option was an eight-hour drive or a flight away.

“Several times I had to listen to her heartbeat, simultaneously wanting to hear it and not wanting to hear it at the same time,” Zurawksi said of her daughter through tears. While they waited, Zurawski and her husband named the baby Willow and made plans to plant a willow tree at their new home in remembrance. Asked whether Willow was alive when Zurawski delivered her, she sobbed: “No.”

Zurawski went into septic shock. Both her parents and her husband’s parents flew to Austin from Indiana out of fear that she would not survive. After three days in intensive care, however, she began to heal.

The women spoke about being scarred by their experiences.

Casiano said she had her tubes tied. Brandt said she and her husband agreed to stop at two children, even though the couple had long planned to have three. Zurawski wants to get pregnant again but faces an uphill battle because doctors had to reconstruct her uterus and clear her fallopian tubes, leaving one permanently closed.

Asked to address the defendants’ claims — that they were not responsible for what happened to each of the plaintiffs — Zurawski scoffed.

“Do they not realise that the reason I might not be able to get pregnant again is a result of the laws they’ve enacted?” she said.


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