The Agony of Denial: Texas Abortion Ban’s Trauma Laid Bare

An emotional court hearing over Texas’s abortion ban was interrupted Wednesday when a woman, recalling her devastating experience of being denied an abortion for a non-viable baby, became physically sick on the stand.

In a courtroom in Austin, Samantha Casiano painted a haunting picture of her ordeal. After learning at 20 weeks of pregnancy that her baby had anencephaly – a fatal condition where parts of the brain and skull don’t fully develop – she was denied an abortion in Texas. Her physician provided funeral home options rather than medical support, given that her baby was certain not to survive.

Forced to continue her pregnancy for 13 more weeks, unable to leave Texas for an abortion, Casiano birthed her baby girl, whom she named Halo. The gut-wrenching experience of holding Halo for four hours, watching her turn cold and purple before passing away, left Casiano in perpetual agony. The memory of the event was so traumatic that it caused her to vomit during her court testimony, leading to a brief recess.

As part of the lawsuit against Texas’s restrictive abortion ban, Casiano, along with 14 other patients and doctors, was essentially forced to relive her horrific experience in front of the court. Two other women joined her in testifying that day, bringing their emotionally charged stories in the fight for essential reproductive care in Texas.

The lead plaintiff, Amanda Zurawski, found herself in septic shock in a hospital due to premature cervical dilation when the Texas ban came into effect, right after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Despite a miscarriage being inevitable, doctors couldn’t induce an abortion due to a detectable fetal heartbeat. Unable to travel elsewhere for an abortion, she had to stay close to a hospital for her safety. Her struggle with sepsis ended up causing permanent damage to her fertility.

Ashley Brandt, another plaintiff, learned that one of the twins she was carrying had a fatal condition called acrania. She had to travel to Colorado to abort the non-viable fetus to ensure the survival of the other. She described the trip as traumatic, fearing to disclose that she was seeking a procedure considered illegal in her home state.

State attorneys appeared indifferent to these heartrending testimonies. They twice objected during Zurawski’s testimony, dismissing it as “irrelevant” and her doctor’s advice as “hearsay.”

These women represent just a fraction of the potentially hundreds or thousands of people experiencing similar trauma due to restrictive abortion laws across the U.S. Studies estimate that legal abortions decreased by 93,575 in the nine months following the reversal of Roe. Meanwhile, numerous stories of babies dying shortly after birth and people’s lives being endangered due to denied abortion access have come to light since the implementation of these bans.