In Texas, 2 Mothers Will Traumatic Pregnancies Have Strange Experiences

The funeral did not go as Samantha Casiano had hoped — she did not get an open casket for the baby she named Halo.

“I was super-heartbroken,” Casiano tells NPR. “It’s the last time I was going to be able to see my daughter. It would have been the first time that a lot of my family members were able to see her.”

Halo had anencephaly — her brain and skull did not fully develop. She lived for four hours. Casiano found out about the condition months earlier in her pregnancy, and she learned it is always fatal. Casiano, who lives outside Houston, wanted an abortion but couldn’t afford to leave Texas to get one.

Beyond a very narrow exception when a mother’s life is in immediate danger, there is no access to abortion in Texas. And doctors who perform an illegal abortion in the state face the possibility of life in prison, fines and the loss of their medical license. They can also be sued for aiding and abetting an abortion.

Samantha Casiano and her husband, Luis Fernando Villasana, pause at baby Halo’s gravesite on June 24. Villasana had held out hope that Halo might be OK; the baby died in his arms.

And so, in Texas, if you are pregnant and your fetus is diagnosed with a fatal condition, you have two options: travel out of state for an abortion or continue to carry the pregnancy until it ends on its own.

This is the story of two women who walked those different paths. Lauren Miller was able to leave Texas to abort one of the fetuses in her twin pregnancy, safeguarding herself and her healthy twin. Casiano had to carry Halo until she went into labor at 33 weeks gestation.

Both Miller and Casiano shared their stories in real time with NPR this year as they were making wrenching decisions and walking through painful circumstances. They spoke to us again in late June as the U.S. marked the first anniversary of the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health ruling. The contrast between their lives highlights how, sometimes, what determines who can terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons is access to thousands of dollars on short notice to be able to “escape the state.”

Why Texas?

Texas is the setting for many stories about the impact of abortion bans in the first year since the Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion in the United States. It’s the country’s second most populous state, with nearly 30 million residents. And it had a head start in limiting access to abortion because a six-week ban went into effect there in September 2021. New research suggests nearly 10,000 more babies were born in the state as a result.

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