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Should Texas amend abortion law, or does it just need better healthcare for women?

A mother told the story of her baby’s short few hours alive on a witness stand in Texas this week, and it was harrowing. She was so upset, recounting how her daughter gasped for air as she died, that some reports say she gagged; others say she vomited.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion-rights group, this woman’s story demonstrates why Texas needs to clarify its abortion law. Does it?

In March, the center sued the state for its abortion ban, the first of its kind since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade last year, effectively tossing abortion regulation to the states.

The hearing in the suit shed some light on prenatal care in Texas and Texas’ abortion law, which essentially bans abortions with some exceptions, including the life and health of the mother.

Thirteen patients and two physicians argued that the medical exceptions to Texas’ laws are unclear. One woman testified that doctors waited until her pregnancy turned into sepsis before her baby, who did not survive, was delivered. According to news reports, hospital staff waited until they were certain the woman’s life was in danger before they induced labor, via the approval of an ethics committee. She blames her struggle to recover on the sepsis.

Amanda Zurawski, one of five plaintiffs in Zurawski v. State of Texas, speaks in March in front of the Capitol in Austin. The lawsuit asks for clarity in Texas law as to when abortions can be provided under the “medical emergency” exception.

Amanda Zurawski, one of five plaintiffs in Zurawski v. State of Texas, speaks in March in front of the Capitol in Austin. The lawsuit asks for clarity in Texas law as to when abortions can be provided under the “medical emergency” exception.

Another woman, Samantha Casiano, explained she gave birth to a baby who only lived four hours. Prior to labor, she knew her baby, named Halo, had been diagnosed with anencephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. She watched as her baby died. On the stand, Casiano broke down.

“She was gasping for air,” Casiano said. “I just kept telling myself and my baby that I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. I felt so bad. She had no mercy. There was no mercy there for her.”

These stories are certainly heartbreaking. Similar accounts had circulated prior to this hearing. It’s been clear for a while that Texas’ abortion ban needs to be amended for clarity about what constitutes a medical emergency, so that doctors — as much as possible — can know sooner and help women and their babies faster.

Those two testimonies, as powerful as they are, do not appear to be results of an abortion ban but rather, results of Texas’ poor maternal healthcare and horrendous situations following childbirth.

A new law clarifies the matter. House Bill 3058 “specifically expressly identifies the medical situations of ectopic pregnancies at any location and previable premature rupture of membranes where the affirmative defense may be asserted.” The bill’s intent is to “ensure that pregnant women who are experiencing complications receive the medical treatment they need in a timely manner.” It goes into effect Sept. 1.

On the one hand, it’s understandable to observe Casiano’s heartbreaking story and demand: Surely there must be some remedy in healthcare between outright facilitating an abortion and delivering a baby just to watch her die? However, on the other hand, is this really a story of what happens when abortions are banned, or a story of parents experiencing really awful heartbreak?

According to the Guttmacher Institute a pro-abortion-rights think tank, among the array of reasons women have abortions, fetal abnormalities, or risk to maternal or fetal health, don’t even make top five reasons they’re so small. If Casiano had not known about her baby Halo’s abnormalities, [defects?] and she’d given birth, she still would have found herself in the same gut-wrenching situation. She just probably wouldn’t be part of a lawsuit about abortion bans.

As much as it’s painful to point this out, babies — babies who are loved and wanted and planned for — sometimes die, just like the rest of humanity does, and it doesn’t justify making allowances for abortion. We also know that babies feel pain during an abortion procedure as well. If she’d chosen abortion in, say, California, the only difference is that Casiano would not have seen her baby die.

According to the Texas Tribune, about 50,000 to 55,000 Texans obtained abortions every year until 2021, when Texas’ six-week ban took effect. Abortions have all but stopped now that there’s a comprehensive ban. To pro-life advocates, this is a win not just for babies but for women too, who suffer emotionally when they have an abortion.

In fact, it’s actually incredible that in the entire state, the stories most favorable to the pro-abortion case are these — a handful of women testifying about sepsis and fetal abnormalities. The pro-life community was threatened that maternal deaths would rise by 24% at least.

While this trial highlighted the complexities of prenatal healthcare, stories like this — recounting the mental and emotional anguish that often triggers depression and anxiety, if also, relief — after women have an abortion have existed for decades. Women died during legal abortions, too, not many — in fact, just about as many as the plaintiffs are suggesting have died due to abortion bans.

One thing is certain: The baby always dies when an abortion occurs.

But the pro-abortion side dismissed those women’s deaths as mere side effects, a price to be paid for the right of abortion, the right to end a life. Now, we are told in this trial that these physical and emotional complications matter.

And they do.

But the pro-life community has always believed this. A new law clarifies Texas’ abortion ban. If that is not enough, it should be revised again. But it should not be used as a wedge to insert any new abortion law. According to these stories, what is really needed is exceptional healthcare for women and babies. Women deserve this and should demand it. But not under the guise of abortion rights.


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