A group of Texas women are suing their state government over its abortion ban, saying the legislation which enacted it is too vague and left doctors unable to provide necessary care to protect their health as well as the health of their fetuses.
The suit was filed by five women who sought abortions after the Texas ban went into effect and were denied despite the risk and harm that their pregnancies posed to their health and that of their fetuses or future children.
Under the Texas state law, no pregnancy in which a fetal heartbeat may be detected can be aborted. The law does not include exceptions for cases of incest or rape. The law states all abortions are criminalized as such “unless the mother’s life is in danger” without specifying when the procedure can be performed, leaving many doctors at a loss for when to intervene.
The plaintiffs, who also include two Texas OB/GYNs, are being represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights. This is the first lawsuit in which individual women are suing a state over harm they experienced due to abortion access being limited by the law.
One of the plaintiffs, 35-year-old Amanda Zurawski, was in the second trimester of her first pregnancy when she was diagnosed with a condition known as cervical insufficiency, which occurs when the cervix ruptures prematurely and is a common cause of late miscarriages.
According to Zurawski, multiple physicians informed her that the loss of her pregnancy was “inevitable” once her fetal membrane broke.
“I asked what can be done to ensure the respectful passing of our baby and what could protect me from a deadly infection now that my body was unprotected and vulnerable,” Zurawski said in a press conference Tuesday. “My health care team was anguished as they explained there was nothing they could do because of Texas’s anti abortion laws.”
Zurawski eventually developed sepsis as she waited, in her words, to become “sick enough” for a hospital ethics board to permit an abortion or for doctors to no longer be able to detect a fetal heartbeat.
“What I needed was an abortion, a standard medical procedure,” Zurawski said. “An abortion would have prevented the unnecessary harm and suffering that I endured, not only the psychological trauma that came with three days of waiting, but the physical harm my body suffered, the extent of which is still being determined. I needed an abortion to protect my life and to protect the lives of my future babies that I dream and hope I can still have someday.”
Fellow plaintiff Lauren Miller, 35, became pregnant with twins in 2022. She has a 19-month child as well. During a 12-week ultrasound appointment, Miller learned there were abnormalities with one of the twins who was later diagnosed with Trisomy 18 or Edward’s Syndrome. The vast majority of fetuses diagnosed with this condition do not survive to full-term.
Miller said that while doctors sought to counsel her on the options available for the twin diagnosed with Trisomy 18, whom she referred to as Baby B, they would have to stop speaking mid-sentence out of fear of bringing up abortion.
“After speaking with multiple doctors and genetic counselors, we kept arriving at the same points: Baby B will die, it’s just a matter of how soon, and every day that Baby B continued to develop he put his twin and myself at greater risk,” Miller said.
Despite the complications with her pregnancy, Miller considers herself lucky because she had connections with out-of-state doctors as well as family members to look after her child.
“We had the time and the money to make the journey but layers of privilege should never determine which Texans can get access to the health care they need. Politicians in Texas are prohibiting health care that they don’t understand. They could do something but they’re not. And it’s killing us,” Miller stated.
The plaintiffs are asking that the exceptions to Texas’s abortion ban be clarified and that the law be found unconstitutional when it applies to pregnant people with emergency medical conditions. They are also asking that Texas be barred from enforcing the abortion ban as well as its related disciplinary actions.