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Five Women Sue Texas Over Confusing Abortion Bans

by Micaela Soler

Five women have filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas after being denied abortions despite experiencing life-threatening medical emergencies. Motivated by their anguish and personal stories, these five women call for clarification on the state’s anti-abortion laws. Texas has been no stranger to having some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country, but after the lawsuit was successfully filed on March 6th, it is clear that the abortion laws are also among some of the most confusing ones as well.

With the overturn of Roe v. Wade in July 2022, Texas has faced several lawsuits, but the case of Zurawski v. State of Texas is the latest legal fight to surface. Citizens are taking action to prevent high-risk pregnancy on account of serious medical conditions. Autoimmune disorders, diabetes, anemia, and infections only makeup a small amount of the many conditions that can result in high-risk pregnancy.

Bravely, Amanda Zurawski (lead plaintiff), Anna Zargarian, Lauren Miller, Lauren Hall, and Ashley Brandt came together in the hopes of having a judge clarify the medical exemptions that would allow for an abortion to be granted. On behalf of the plaintiffs, the Center of Reproductive Rights have filed this lawsuit, took to Twitter to explain that they “are seeking to rightfully return life-and-death medical decisions to patients and their doctors,” rather than leaving it up to the State. They aren’t asking for an overturn of the anti-abortion law, but these five women deserve clarification to help women who are suffering from complications of high-risk pregnancies, and fear that specialists such as physicians or obstetrician-gynecologists will refuse them the life-saving abortions they may need.

All five women faced dangerous, life-threatening complications after being denied abortions that, under the abortion ban exemptions in Texas, their medical situations should have qualified them for an abortion. Zurawski, for instance, was suffering from PROM, which are pre-term, pre-labor ruptures in the membranes of the amniotic sac. Three days after being denied an abortion, she began developing a serious infection and sepsis. While this finally granted her an abortion, the infection left her in critical condition and she spent several days in the ICU fighting against the vicious infection. 

Zargarian, Miller, Hall, and Brandt had to leave their homes and find access to abortions in different states – Colorado and Washington luckily had openings for them. Hall and Brandt were faced with health complications their fetuses were suffering that would place them at risk of infection and death during labor. Hall’s fetus had anencephaly, a birth defect in which the fetus wouldn’t be able to develop a brain or skull, which results in the fetus not surviving labor and jeopardizing Hall’s health and life. Brandt, who was pregnant with twins, learned that one of her fetuses had acrania, a precursor for anencephaly that is lethal for a fetus, and would likely result in Brandt not surviving the pregnancy.

Zargarian and Miller were suffering painful infections that also placed them in a situation that wouldn’t allow for them to survive labor. Zargarian’s water broke only 19 weeks into her pregnancy, and doctors advised her that her pregnancy would lead to hemorrhaging and sepsis – but they still refused to perform an abortion for her. Miller was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that results in severe and excessive nausea and vomiting. At 12 weeks of pregnancy, Miller not only discovered she was pregnant with twins, but also that one of her fetuses had trisomy 18, a condition that results in several structural abnormalities that lower the chance of survival for a fetus.

Zurawski and her colleagues claim that the state’s Senate Bill 8 impacted their access to abortion care. This law was put into place in September 2021, prior to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, and denies women abortions after only six weeks of pregnancy, which is far too early for most women to even know about their pregnancy. The bill also places doctors, abortion providers, and even friends and family at risk of being sued at any moment by private citizens. Consequently, doctors now fear liability if they are to grant an abortion beyond the 6-week period. Due to the large confusion of the medical exceptions, they are placing their own concerns about legal and financial repercussions above the health of their patients. 

“It is no wonder that doctors and hospitals are turning patients away.”

Highlighting the traumatic experiences of the women, the complaint continues on to describe the terror doctors and abortion clinics are facing. Threats of losing medical licenses, high-cost fines, and being sentenced to prison are placing specialists in the position of needing to make morally compromising decisions, and “it is no wonder that doctors and hospitals are turning patients away,” states the complaint.

On March 7th, the Center for Reproductive Rights used their Facebook platform to livestream a press conference where each woman took the stand and shared their personal stories after being completely shut down by their own doctors, who they had trusted to be of help. “I’ll never forget when one specialist tore off his gloves and threw them in the trash,” said Miller when she took the stand, “‘I can’t help you anymore,’ he said. ‘You need to leave the state.’”

After the opening statement of Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Zurawski took the lead to express her personal disappointment, stating “I cannot adequately put into words the trauma and despair that comes with waiting to either lose your own life, your child’s life, or both.” She had to be at death’s door in order to receive the medical attention she needed for an abortion in order to avoid an infectious labor that would have taken her life.

The clear indicator that Texas is facing a pressing healthcare crisis can also be seen after the release of the public statement from Vice President Kamala Harris on her Twitter account.

The devastation of not only these five women, but any person who has experienced the soul-crushing disappointment of needing an abortion to save a life, but instead being turned away with no hope, is a clear sign that Texas is in need of a resolution to this complex issue.

It will be a long, rough road for these five women and the Center for Reproductive Rights, but their bravery and fortitude will hopefully take us one step closer to providing clearer answers for future people in need of abortion care.

Photo, top: Screenshot from Facebook Livestream, Center for Reproductive Rights

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