8 More Women Join Lawsuit Against Texas Abortion Ban, Sharing Horrific Stories

"Texas law caused me to be ... detained against my will for five days and treated like a criminal," plaintiff Kiersten Hogan told reporters.

8 More Women Join Lawsuit Against Texas Abortion Ban, Sharing Horrific Stories
Kiersten Hogan Screenshot:Center for Reproductive Rights

In a tear-filled press conference on Monday, eight more plaintiffs joined a lawsuit seeking to clarify the confusing web of archaic abortion laws governing Texas, which was brought by seven other women who’ve been denied abortions in the state. Jessica Bernardo, Kiersten Hogan, and Elizabeth Weller shared harrowing stories of fetal anomalies, medical gaslighting, and perhaps most troublingly, in Hogan’s case, being detained at a religious hospital against her will and being forced to give birth to a stillborn son.

The lawsuit, originally filed in March, asks a judge to temporarily (and eventually permanently) suspend Texas from enforcing the state’s civil penalties against abortions when there are pregnancy complications. The plaintiffs claim that the state’s abortion restrictions are delaying care for pregnant patients and hurting doctors. “Texas law caused me to be … detained against my will for five days and treated like a criminal all during the most traumatic and heartbreaking experience I’ve had in my life to date,” Hogan, one of the new plaintiffs, told reporters on Monday. “I’m joining this case because women deserve better.”

Hogan experienced a stillbirth after her water broke at 19 weeks of pregnancy. Before that, she contends she was detained at a religious hospital and given repeated religious counseling, despite telling providers that she did not want it. There was no talk of emergency procedures or an abortion. The best they could offer was to wait and “monitor [the] situation.”

In June 2021, Hogan was living in Oklahoma when her period was 12 days late. “When I saw the positive result on the drugstore pregnancy test, I was certain that this would be my only chance to have a baby,” she continued, explaining that after a history of miscarriages and a PCOS diagnosis, she didn’t expect to be able to carry a pregnancy to term.

However, she realized the “toxic and abusive relationship” she was in was not conducive to a healthy pregnancy. “The second [the father] left [for a business trip], I packed all my belongings into a U-Haul and left. A friend of mine lived in Texas and was also pregnant adn I thought I would be safe here,” she said. “Things were looking up for me.”

Plaintiffs Anna Zargarian, Lauren Miller, Lauren Hall, and Amanda Zurawski at the Texas State Capitol after filing a lawsuit on behalf of Texans harmed by the state’s abortion ban on March 07, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Photo:Rick Kern/Getty Images for the Center for Reproductive Rights (Getty Images)

Hogan rented a new place and got a new job. On what should have been her first day of work, in September 2021, her water broke at 19 weeks. S.B. 8—the Texas bounty hunter law that let people sue anyone they thought had aided and abetted an abortion—had been in effect only a few weeks.

What was looking like a new lease on life quickly turned horrific, according to Hogan. “At 5 a.m. the day I was supposed to start my work assignment, I woke up in so much pain and thought that I was about to give birth. Terrified, I called 911 and the dispatcher instructed me to unlock the door and lay down on the floor and wait for the EMTs to arrive,” she told reporters. “It was the longest five minutes of my life.”

Hogan was taken to the nearest hospital, which happened to be a religious hospital. (She would not share the affiliation, but did specify it wasn’t a Catholic hospital, a denomination known for getting in its patients’ business.)

As Hogan explained it:

“All they could do was monitor my situation. They didn’t tell me much about my son’s chances of survival, but the one thing that did make clear, repeatedly, was that I should not leave. I was told that if I tried to discharge myself or seek care elsewhere, that I could be arrested for trying to kill my child. I wanted this baby, so of course I stayed. Every four hours, around the clock, they would bring in the Doppler monitor and check the baby’s heart rate. If it was too low, they would make me get up and walk around. When I needed to use the bathroom, I was accompanied and watched and made sure that I didn’t push. I was scared to even have a bowel movement because the amniotic sac was protruding. Even though I said I didn’t want religious counseling, they sent a chancellor to guide me. They kept saying it would be good for me. The goal they told me was to get my son, who I named Amon Blake, to 22 weeks gestation, when he might be able to survive on his own. It didn’t seem possible for me. Four days there, no changes. Just the same routine. The same feelings of birth coming too early and everything somehow being my fault. We didn’t make it important two weeks. On the fifth day in the hospital, while using the bathroom. My son started to enter the birth canal and I was rushed to labor and delivery where I gave birth to him stillborn.”

She would labor for two more hours to deliver the placenta. The next morning at 7 a.m., Hogan alleged, she was given a wheelchair, her belongings and discharged. She was given a letter that said she could go back to work right away. “At every turn staff reminded me how alone I was and how unmarried I was,” she said. “I was made to feel less than human.”

A hearing in the case has not been set. “This is a public health crisis, one that is pervasive, ongoing and government-inflicted,” Molly Duane, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said at the Monday press conference.

Despite how horrific Hogan’s experience is, courts move slow. This means the state’s laws are likely to produce more nightmares like these as the the legal teams wait for a court date.

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