Texas Abortion Ban Risks Women’s Health and Stretches into the World of Assisted Reproduction

With its restrictive abortion law, the state of Texas has become an example of why bans on abortion are not only a detriment to women’s rights and health, but, as time passes and lawsuits are filed, it is also giving us insight into possible far-reaching consequences in the world of assisted reproduction.

Texas Abortion Trigger Law Takes Effect

In June of 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization stripped American women of federal protections when it comes to abortion rights, leaving the issue of abortion to the states. Many states, including Texas, already having trigger laws in place meant anti-abortion laws took effect almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s ruling. The Texas trigger law, passed in September of 2021 and known as the Texas Heartbeat Bill, was effectively enabled following the Supreme Court ruling, prohibiting physicians from performing abortions after cardiac activity is detected (usually around six weeks of pregnancy and oftentimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant). Under this law, abortion is only allowed if the pregnant patient faces “a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy.” There are no exceptions for rape or incest. The Texas abortion law also makes it a first-degree felony for anyone who knowingly performs an abortion, punishable by hefty fines and prison time. Anyone in the medical field, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, family members, or friends who aid in an abortion, is potentially subject to prosecution.

Women Sue Texas Over Abortion Bans Putting Their Lives at Risk

In March of this year, five women filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas over the restrictive abortion laws, stating that they didn’t receive vital obstetrical care when they were denied the right to terminate their pregnancies, even though their lives were at risk. Now, multiple other women have joined the lawsuit with similar stories, alleging that vague language, the use of non-medical terminology, and poorly written legislation have the medical profession confused and afraid to perform medical exception abortions for fear of prosecution. Litigants are asking for clarity in the statutory language so that doctors can confidently perform medical procedures that fall within the exceptions of the ban.

ABC News reported that Amanda Zurawski, the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, was diagnosed with an incomplete cervix during her pregnancy. Doctors told Zurawski there wasn’t anything they could do as there was still a fetal heartbeat. It wasn’t until Zurawski developed sepsis that doctors were allowed to perform the abortion. After the procedure, she developed sepsis again and formed so much scar tissue that one of her fallopian tubes is now permanently closed.

Another plaintiff Anna Zargarian was diagnosed with preterm premature rupture of the membranes, which put her at high risk for hemorrhaging or sepsis. She had to travel out of state for the necessary medical abortion, incurring travel costs. Several other women also stated having to travel out of state in order to have a termination procedure or risk their health.

As more women have come forward, a common theme is emerging; women with pregnancy complications are either forced to risk their own health by carrying the fetus to term or find the time and the means to travel out of state to receive abortion care.

Women Forced to Carry Fetuses with Fatal Conditions in Texas Due to Abortion Ban

Some women in the lawsuit claim they were forced to carry a non-viable pregnancy to term. Kylie Beaton’s physician found at her 20-week ultrasound that the fetus had alobar holoprosencephaly, a rare condition in which the brain fails to develop into two hemispheres, resulting in the loss of midline structures and fusion in the brain cavities and severe facial deformities. Beaton tells ABC News that she was told by her doctors that there was nothing to be done unless she herself developed a severe health issue.

With this condition, the fetus’ head develops at a different rate, often filling with fluid making the head larger. Dr. Katie McHugh, an Indiana OB-GYN told ABC that “most of the time vaginal delivery is not an option. And so cesarean delivery is required. And this is going to be major abdominal surgery with risks associated with it – for a baby that has maybe no chance of a normal life or potentially of survival at all, depending on the severity.” Beacon gave birth via emergency c-section to a son who died four days later.

Samantha Casiano, who found out at a 20-week ultrasound that her baby would be stillborn or die shortly after birth due to a rare birth defect, was still forced to carry her pregnancy to term. She tells CNN after delivering her daughter in March, “All she could do was fight to try to get air. I had to watch my daughter go from being pink to red to purple. From being warm to cold. I just kept telling myself and my baby that I’m so sorry that this had to happen to you.” She says she couldn’t afford to travel out of state for an abortion.

Frozen Embryo Lawsuit in Divorce Case Cites Texas Abortion Law

Another lawsuit citing Texas’ extreme abortion law, Antoun v. Antoun, has gained national attention. For the first time in Texas since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a divorcing couple went to trial court in a dispute over which spouse should have possession of the couple’s cryopreserved pre-embryos (fertilized ova at less than 14 days of development). As part of the IVF process, both parties signed medical consent documents at their fertility center that dealt with “embryo dispositions between them in the event of death or divorce” in which the pre-embryos were to be at the disposition of the husband. The wife argued that she did not understand what she was signing at the clinic and that the cryogenically preserved pre-embryos should not be treated as property but that they should be treated as “unborn children,” Because, she contended, the Texas Human Life Protection Act took effect after the Dobbs ruling. The court, after an appeal, eventually sided with the husband, stating that the medical consent documents were binding, and that the wife had taken a “definition out of its legislatively created context and used it in a context that the legislature did not intend.”

This case brings to light the fact that Texas has not directly addressed the status of pre-embryos that are not yet in the womb, making it possible for more of these types of cases to follow suit. Is it only a matter of time before frozen pre-embryos are considered “unborn children” with the new abortion laws? Justice Elizabeth Kerr, a judge in Place 3 of the Texas Second District Court of Appeals and in this case, writes separately as a concurring opinion with a follow-up on the majority’s observation “that it has been 17 years since our sister court in Houston ‘anticipat[ed] that the issues for how to deal with frozen embryos] will ultimately be resolved by the Texas Legislature.’” She goes on to say, “I urge the Texas Legislature to grapple with them in light of, perhaps as on a continuum with, the policies that protect embryonic life when it is in a different location.”

Possible Effects of Texas Abortion Ban on Intended Parents Pursuing IVF

In the case of Antoun v. Antoun, the court sided with the husband that the frozen pre-embryos are not unborn children, but what if the court had decided in favor of the wife? It is within the realm of possibility that in the near future frozen pre-embryos could be considered unborn children. “If you believe that an embryo is a person, then perhaps even if that embryo is outside of the body, you want to ensure that it is protected, and no harm comes to it,” said Barbara Collura, president and CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, on NPR.  “And that’s where we run into some problems. Because there are things that are done as standard practice in a laboratory in the course of IVF that some may deem as causing harm to that embryo.”

The reality is the Dobbs decision has opened the door for potential legal challenges to IVF and other forms of assisted reproductive technology. The process of IVF often produces multiple pre-embryos, often more than can be used by the intended parent or parents, and many end up cryopreserved. If intended parents decide to discard their unused pre-embryos, or even pre-embryos that are not viable for pregnancy, do they face possible criminal charges for violating the abortion ban? Do they continue to pay yearly storage fees to keep the pre-embryos frozen via cryopreservation indefinitely to avoid possible prosecution? Will embryologists and cryopreservation facilities themselves bear the brunt of prosecution? Where is the line, and who deems that someone has crossed it?

At its core, restrictive abortion laws combined with lack of specific verbiage and clarity in language not only deeply threatens a woman’s right to her own bodily autonomy but may also have far-reaching consequences in the world of assisted reproduction. Women are being forced to travel out of state for abortions, and intended parents may well be forced to do the same if pre-embryos created outside of a woman’s body are deemed unborn children. This leaves a plethora of unanswered questions and an entire state with its population at the mercy of different interpretations of the law. Now it falls to Texas and voters throughout the country to demand reproductive freedom and the restoration of the rights of American women to control their own bodies.

Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.