More women sue Texas, asking court to put emergency block on state’s abortion law

Jessica Bernardo poses for a photo at her home in Dallas, area Thursday, May 18, 2023. More Texas women who were told they could not end pregnancies with fatal fetal anomalies or that endangered their health are challenging the state's restrictive abortion laws. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

WASHINGTON — One woman had to carry her baby, missing much of her skull, for months knowing she’d bury her daughter soon after she was born. Another started mirroring the life-threatening symptoms that her baby was displaying while in the womb. An OB-GYN found herself secretly traveling out of state to abort her wanted pregnancy, marred by the diagnosis of a fatal fetal anomaly.

All of the women were told they could not end their pregnancies in Texas, a state that has enacted some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws.

ADVERTISING


Now, they’re asking a Texas court to put an emergency hold on some abortion restrictions, joining a lawsuit launched earlier this year by five other women who were denied abortions in the state, despite pregnancies they say endangered their health or lives.

More than a dozen Texas women in total have joined the Center for Reproductive Rights’ lawsuit against the state’s law, which prohibits abortions unless a mother’s life is at risk — an exception that is not clearly defined. Texas doctors who perform abortions risk life in prison and fines of up to $100,000, leaving many women with providers who are unwilling to even discuss terminating a pregnancy.

The Texas attorney general’s office, which is defending the state in the lawsuit, did not immediately return an email seeking comment Monday.

The lawsuit serves as a nationwide model for abortion rights advocates to challenge strict new abortion laws states that have rolled out since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Sixteen states, including Texas, do not allow abortions when a fatal fetal anomaly is detected while six do not allow exceptions for the mother’s health.

Duane said the Center for Reproductive Rights is looking at filing similar lawsuits in other states, noting that they’ve heard from women across the country. Roughly 25 Texas women have contacted the organization about their own experiences since the initial lawsuit was filed in March.

The women who joined the lawsuit describe being elated about finding out they were pregnant before the experience turned catastrophic.

Jessica Bernardo and her husband spent years trying to conceive, even consulting fertility doctors, before finally become pregnant with a daughter, Emma, last July.

Almost immediately, Bernardo was coughing so hard and often she would sometimes throw up. Fourteen weeks into the pregnancy, test results revealed her baby likely had Down Syndrome, so she consulted a specialist who gave her devastating news: Emma’s heart was underdeveloped and she had a rare, deadly disorder called fetal anasarca, which causes fluid to build up in the body.

“He handed me a tissue box,” recalled Bernardo, who lives in Frisco, Texas. “I thought maybe the worst thing he was going to tell us was that she’s going to have Down Syndrome. Instead, he said, ‘I can tell you right away…she wouldn’t make it.’”

The doctor warned her to watch out for high blood pressure and coughing, symptoms of Mirror syndrome, another rare condition where a mother “mirrors” the same problems the fetus is experiencing.

With Bernardo’s blood pressure numbers climbing, her OB-GYN conferred with the hospital’s ethics board to see if she could end the pregnancy but was advised Bernardo wasn’t sick enough. Bernardo spent $7,000 traveling to Seattle for an abortion a week later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.