Doctors Testify That Texas Abortion Law Is 'Severe' Following Painful Testimony From Women Denied Abortions

Abortion Lawsuit
Amanda Zurawski speaks to reporters after a day of taxing testimony from women who said they were denied abortions in Texas despite suffering serious pregnancy complications that endangered their health.Getty

Doctors testified Thursday that the "severe" abortion ban in place in Texas endangers medical staff after women who desperately wanted children said their pregnancies nearly killed them because they were denied the medical procedure.

Doctors testified Thursday that "severe' Texas abortion laws endanger medical practitioners, one day after harrowing testimony was heard from women who said they nearly died from pregnancy complications because they were denied the medical procedure.

"The consequences of those laws are severe, personally, to the physicians themselves," testified Dr. Ali Shahbizraja, an emergency medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The testimony is part of a lawsuit filed against Texas over its strict abortion laws that ban the procedure after six weeks. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the suit on behalf of 15 plaintiffs, nearly all of them women who said they were unable to receive abortions in Texas despite serious dangers to their health. Some of the women said they were forced to carry fetuses to term, only to watch them die in their arms or be stillborn.

Amanda Zurawski told the Austin courtroom on Wednesday she developed sepsis after her water broke at 17 weeks and doctors said they could not perform an abortion because the fetus still had a heartbeat. She lost one of her fallopian tubes to the dangerous infection and may never be able to have children.

She nearly died from the devastating experience, she testified.

Another woman, Samantha Casiano, became so distressed during her testimony she became physically ill. Casiano vomited on the witness stand as she described being forced to carry a nonviable pregnancy to term, then delivering a baby who died four hours later.

Casiano sobbed as she testified a doctor told her that Texas law prevented ending her pregnancy, even though her baby suffered a condition that was 100% fatal.

"I felt like I was abandoned," she said. "I felt like I didn't know how to deal with the situation." 

The three women who testified Wednesday said they were overjoyed to learn they were pregnant. That joy was subsequently replaced with terror and fear, they said, after learning their babies had severe medical problems that would most likely kill them, either in the womb or shortly after birth.

In opening statements, the state of Texas contended the plaintiffs are pursuing the lawsuit because they don't like the abortion laws. State Attorney General Ken Paxton's office, which is defending the ban, argued the women lack standing to sue, saying in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit  "none of the patients' alleged injuries are traceable to defendants." 

The lawsuit, however, does not seek reversal of the Texas law that was enacted after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Under the new law, doctors who provide prohibited abortions can be fined, imprisoned or have their licenses revoked.

Rather, the lawsuit seeks clarification on what entails a medical emergency, the lone situation that allows a pregnant person to seek abortion after six weeks. Cases of rape and incest are not exempt under the state's strict laws.

Texas has one of the nation's most extensive abortion bans.

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