Texas women take legal action after being denied abortion despite complications

Texas women take legal action after being denied abortion despite complications

Anna Zargarian, one of the plaintiffs, in an emotional state, in Austin, Texas, on March 7, 2023.

Five women have taken legal action in Texas to ask this conservative American state to clarify the “medical exceptions” the laws that prohibit local doctors, under penalty of heavy fines and imprisonment, from performing pregnancy terminations.

According to the organization Center for Reproductive Rights which represents them, this is the first complaint filed by American women who have been refused abortions since the United States Supreme Court in June blasted the right to abortion.

In this unprecedented complaint and during a rare public speech, these five Texans told, Tuesday, March 7, how they had been refused an abortion despite serious complications. Beyond the legal aspect, it is also for them to show the Americans “the concrete implications” restrictive laws adopted by fifteen States after this historic judgment.

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Texas laws, which provide up to 99 years in prison for doctors performing abortions, allow exceptions but only “in case of danger of death or serious handicap for the mother”.

A law considered vague and confusing

“No one should have to wait until they are near death to receive health care”said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. The complainants consider that the law is vaguely drafted and creates confusion for health professionals who fear repercussions if they perform an abortion.

During a press conference in Austin, in front of the parliament of their state, they explained that they had experienced a first trauma when they discovered, after a few weeks of desired pregnancy, that their fetus was not viable.

When the bag of waters broke, months before the end, “My heart broke into millions of pieces”confided, very moved, Anna Zargarian, 33 years old. “I wanted to curl up and cry”added Lauren Miller who, pregnant with twins, learned in the second trimester that one of the fetuses had fatal malformations. “But I couldn’t because I had to arrange to have an abortion outside my state, in order to give the other baby a chance to survive”explained this 35-year-old woman.

Both took a flight to Colorado, where it is possible to abort late in a pregnancy. It was “the scariest experience of my life, assured Anna Zargarian. It was like playing Russian roulette: I could bleed, get infected, or go into labor at any time. » They were able to receive the desired care and Lauren Miller, who appeared in front of the media with a very plump belly, is due to give birth at the end of the month.

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“Scary testimonies”, according to Kamala Harris

At eighteen weeks pregnant, Lauren Hall had discovered that her fetus had no skull and could not survive. She traveled to Seattle to have an abortion at a clinic where she was met by “protesters who called me a killer by holding up posters of dead babies”. Pregnant again, she said “to be afraid of everything”, “monitor every little pain for fear of finding yourself in this unbearable situation again”.

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For her part, Amanda Zurawski, 35, successfully terminated her pregnancy in Texas, but had to wait three days after her water broke because her hospital refused to intervene until she showed signs of infection.

“My doctor couldn’t intervene as long as his heart was beating or until I was sick enough for the hospital ethics committee to consider my life in danger and allow the normal health care I needed. at this moment “, she explained. Because of this delay, she developed sepsis, spent several days in intensive care and lost one of her tubes. For her, “There are no words to describe the trauma and despair of having to wait to die, or having to wait for the death of your child, or both”.

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The complaint “contains chilling, direct testimonies of women who nearly lost their lives after being denied care”said Democratic Vice-President Kamala Harris in a statement. “In 2023, in the United States, these stories are shameful and unacceptable”added the spokeswoman for the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre, denouncing “extremist efforts by Republicans to take away women’s freedom of choice”.

Le Monde with AP and AFP

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