07.20.2023 (PRESS RELEASE) — A two-day hearing concluded today in Austin in the case Zurawski v. State of Texas. The Center for Reproductive Rights brought this case on behalf of two OB-GYNs and 13 Texans who suffered severe pregnancy complications, yet were denied abortions due to the state’s abortion bans. Five of the plaintiffs testified and were callously cross examined by the state’s attorneys, who asked to have the case thrown out.
In court, Texas’ attorneys:
- Badgered one plaintiff—Samantha Casiano—with eight questions about her history of depression and using anti-depressants.
- In their opening remarks, a lawyer for the state of Texas claimed: “Make no mistake, the past experiences of the patient plaintiffs were indisputably tragic. But each one of them is just that: in the past.”
- Attorneys for the state of Texas patronizingly asked each patient plaintiff, “At any time did Attorney General Paxton tell you that you couldn’t receive an abortion?”
- Plaintiff Samantha Casiano—who was forced to give birth to a baby with no chance of survival—became so upset describing the experience that she became physically ill at the witness stand, recounting how her daughter gasped for air for hours before dying. The following day, the State’s medical witness—Dr. Ingrid Skop, who is the Vice President of an anti-abortion group—described such situations as “heartbreaking, but it’s beautiful too.”
This is not the first time the state has tried to discredit the plaintiffs. In a recent request to dismiss the case, the state of Texas claimed that some of the women—whose fertility is now compromised due to being denied abortions—no longer need to worry about the bans because they are unlikely to become pregnant again, and thus have no grounds to sue. They also claimed the plaintiffs who are currently pregnant again can’t be certain they’ll experience complications again, and thus have no grounds to sue. The state reiterated this point in their closing arguments.
“Each of these women have been through the unthinkable, and reliving that trauma in court was agonizing,” said Molly Duane, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “No one should have to do that, but they did it to save other Texans from the same fate. They did it to hold the state of Texas accountable for the suffering their laws are causing. Yet, instead of taking responsibility for the harm these bans have caused, the State’s attorneys egregiously belittled and shamed the women who testified. They disparaged women who nearly died and whose fertility is now compromised—women who were forced to give birth knowing their baby wouldn’t live. It speaks volumes that the State decided to go after the victims of its laws today rather than re-examine the policies that have caused so much suffering. How many pregnant people need to flee the state or end up on death’s door before something is done?”
FOR MEDIA USE:
- Video from day one press conference outside court (credit: Center for Reproductive Rights / SPLASHCinema)
- Video from day two press conference outside court (credit: Center for Reproductive Rights / SPLASHCinema)
- Photos from both days of hearing (credit: Center for Reproductive Rights / SPLASHCinema)
The conflicting language in Texas’ abortion bans has resulted in pervasive fear and confusion among doctors as to when they can help patients with severe pregnancy complications. Texas doctors have been turning patients away because they face up to 99 years in prison, at least $100,000 in fines, and the loss of their medical license for violating the abortion bans. This means pregnant people are being forced to either wait until they are near death to receive care or flee the state if they are able. The Center for Reproductive Rights is asking the court to give doctors clarity on what circumstances qualify as exceptions and to allow doctors to use their own medical judgment without fear of prosecution.
Learn more about the plaintiffs here.
The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Morrison & Foerster LLP, and Kaplan Law Firm on behalf of patients Amanda Zurawski; Lauren Miller; Lauren Hall; Anna Zargarian; Ashley Brandt; Kylie Beaton; Jessica Bernardo; Samantha Casiano; Austin Dennard, D.O.; Taylor Edwards; Kiersten Hogan; Lauren Van Vleet; and Elizabeth Weller as well as healthcare providers Dr. Damla Karsan, M.D. and Dr. Judy Levison, M.D., M.P.H.
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