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Months of a doomed pregnancy: What can happen in a state with strict abortion laws


Let's turn now to the story of a funeral in Texas. And a warning - it involves the loss of a child. The baby's name was Halo. She was born last week. She only lived for four hours. Her parents knew she would not live long because she had been diagnosed with a fatal condition in utero. And this family's situation unfolded in a state with strict abortion laws, which is relevant here, as NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin is about to explain. Hey, Selena.


KELLY: All right. Tell me about Halo's mother. You spoke with her last week. Who is she?

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Yeah. Her name is Samantha Casiano, and she's 29. She and her husband, Luis Villasana, are raising five kids in their mobile home in East Texas. And in December, when she was 20 weeks pregnant, she was at a prenatal appointment when she learned that the fetus she was carrying had anencephaly, which means that the brain and skull were only partially developed. Her OB-GYN told her the fetus was incompatible with life. Here's Samantha.

SAMANTHA CASIANO: And then I asked her, you know, hey; what are my options? And she says, well, because of the new law, you don't have any options. You have to go on with your pregnancy.

KELLY: The new law being the new abortion law in Texas. And there are no exceptions for a case like hers.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: No, not in Texas. And in fact, very few states that restrict abortion do have exceptions for fetal anomalies. So if you're in this situation in Texas, one option is to travel out of state for an abortion. I reported in February about a woman who did that. She flew to Colorado. She said it cost over $3,000. And Samantha and Luis didn't have those kinds of savings, so they would have had to drive 12 hours to get to New Mexico. They couldn't arrange child care. So she braced herself for five more months of pregnancy.

KELLY: Five months. God, how did she cope during that time?

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Oh, she says those months were awful. She has an office job and started working remotely so she didn't have to respond to people saying, how far along are you? And it was also painful to go to her doctors appointments and see other pregnant women there. Here she is.

CASIANO: I definitely feel like, you know, at - when we found out she had anencephaly, I should have had that choice, that right over my own body and over my daughter's body, to be able to tell my daughter, it's time for you to rest, because she was going to end up having to rest anyways.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She spent months fundraising for the funeral. She was quoted $4,000. A nonprofit called First Touch Family also helped her fundraise, but she didn't have as much time to get money together as she expected because the baby was born last week, two months early, on March 29. And today the family had a small graveside service and buried the baby girl they named Halo.

KELLY: Today. Oh. Selena, does Texas provide any public support for families like hers?

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: No, and that's something Molly Duane pointed out when I spoke to her. She's an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. Texas leaves people to deal with the personal and financial fallout when they have a pregnancy like this, Duane says.

MOLLY DUANE: Where is the state of Texas to provide the safety net for her after forcing her to give birth to a child that didn't survive and never would?

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: I also spoke to Amy O'Donnell. She's with the Texas Alliance for Life, and she told me she does not support adding more exceptions to Texas' abortion laws.

AMY O'DONNELL: I do believe the Texas laws are working as designed. I also believe that we have a responsibility to educate Texas women and families on the resources that we have available to them.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She says there are private organizations that can help with funerals, and her group would support public funds being used for that, too. Samantha and her family are getting some extra support. Since NPR published her story yesterday, many people were moved to donate to her funeral fundraising page, and they've now donated $30,000 and counting.

KELLY: NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin. Thank you.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Selena Simmons-Duffin reports on health policy for NPR.

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