Salia Issa, a pregnant prison guard from Abilene, found herself in a devastating situation when she began experiencing pain during her shift in November 2021. Despite being seven months pregnant, Issa was denied leave to seek necessary medical care for two and a half hours. By the time Issa was able to access medical care it was too late, and her child was delivered stillborn, with doctors indicating that more timely intervention could have saved the baby’s life.
In response to this heart-wrenching incident, Issa and her husband, Fiston Rukengeza, have filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Issa’s three supervisors who denied her timely medical leave. The lawsuit seeks redress for the couple’s tragic loss of their child, reimbursement for the medical expenses incurred in the event, and funeral expenses for their child.
In its filings, the Texas Office of the Attorney General appears to have taken a stance at odds with its history of boldly defending the Right to Life of preborn Texans. However, upon a deeper reading of their briefs, the state’s arguments highlight rather than affirm the inadequacies with the past – the dismissal of the rights of preborn children under Roe v. Wade, which was still in place when Issa’s case occurred. Another argument made that appears hypocritical compared to the attorney general’s traditional life-affirming stance regards coverage of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. This is a nuanced argument specific to this case and the attorney general’s job of defending state agencies. It is not implying that preborn children are less valuable or deserve less protection.
However, we cannot let situations like this happen again in the future. Now more than ever, the state of Texas must protect pregnant women from discrimination and secure access to the proper and timely care they need for both themselves and their preborn children. We must continue to fight to affirm the humanity of preborn children from the very beginning of their lives.
The case is ongoing. Texas Right to Life grieves with Issa and her family in the heartbreaking loss of their child. Human life begins at the moment of fertilization, and every human deserves our moral attention and legal protection, including preborn children. That holds true in this case.
This circumstance serves as a solemn reminder for Texas. We must continue working to build a state that is not just opposed to abortion, but one that respects all human Life, mothers and preborn children alike. Protecting pregnant workers certainly falls within this category. We await further developments in this case as well as the larger questions about legal protections for Texans in the womb, even as we continue working to build a truly life-affirming society.