Samantha Casiano was denied an abortion option in Texas despite her fetus being diagnosed with anencephaly, a malformation of the skull and brain that means he would not survive.
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Months after losing her child, who died four hours after birth, Samantha is one of thirteen patients suing the state of Texas, demanding clarification on “medical exceptions” to laws that now ban abortion.
“It was awful because I wanted my daughter to rest in peace as soon as possible and we had to wait for her to be born,” 29-year-old Samantha Casiano told AFP. “My daughter suffered from anencephaly and therefore had to die quickly before or after birth.”
In such a situation, families are often offered medical abortion, with the malformation irretrievably dooming the child.
But since the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022 and gave states the freedom to legislate on the subject themselves, about 15 have enacted extremely restrictive laws or made abortion illegal in their territory.
Texas is one of them. In this conservative southern state, abortion is now illegal, and doctors who practice it illegally face hefty fines and up to 99 years in prison. According to the 13 plaintiffs, the exceptions for medical reasons are defined too vaguely, which frightens doctors and also prevents them from performing an abortion in this context.
Samantha Casiano says she’s a victim of those rules. His companion, Luis Villasana, 25, explains that they could have traveled illegally to another state but had no financial means to do so and then risked imprisonment.
“It’s against the law,” he explains, adding, “We’re trying to make things right.”
The couple, who are raising four children, were excited about expanding their family before a medical exam at 20 weeks pregnant in December 2022 confirmed their hopes.
“My baby died in my arms (…), I supported him for all these four hours,” testifies Luis Villasana.
In the final weeks of her pregnancy, his partner had been prescribed antidepressants by her doctor and had to endure uncomfortable praise and painful questions on her baby bump, even though she knew full well that their child would not survive.
“I hope the law changes so other women don’t have to go through what I endured and other fathers don’t have to watch their child die between their hands,” said Samantha Casiano.
The mother told her painful story before an Austin judge this week and faced questions from the defense, who argued the medical exceptions could be used haphazardly and as an excuse.
Haunted by the memory of her baby dying in her companion’s arms, Samantha collapsed in court. She vomited and had to be escorted out of the courtroom before she burst into tears.
Amanda Zurawski, who first shared her story, told the court that she was also denied an abortion when her fetus was convicted.
“When I needed an emergency abortion while pregnant with my daughter Willow, I had to go home and wait,” she said at a news conference.
Ms. Zurawski was only able to undergo this procedure three days later after suffering from sepsis. “I almost died because of the inhumane laws of Texas that ban abortion,” she said.
Another plaintiff, Lauren Miller, pointed out that Samantha’s daughter was “choked.” “We shouldn’t torture babies and call them hostile to life,” as abortion opponents call themselves in the United States, she scolded.