Five women in Texas are taking their fight for abortion access to the courts.
With help from the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization that fights for reproductive justice through legal and advocacy channels, the women are arguing that the state’s restrictive law endangered their lives.The lawsuit, Zurawski v. State of Texas, is the first of its kind to be filed since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last summer.
Each of the five women were denied abortions in Texas, despite suffering severe and dangerous complications. Through the lawsuit, both the plaintiffs and the Center aim to clarify what constitutes “medical emergencies,” to ensure abortion access to pregnant people who need the procedure for survival.
Under the present laws, women’s lives and future fertility are in danger, they argue. Lead plaintiff Amanda Zurawski, who had been pregnant with a daughter, sought an abortion after her water broke at 18 weeks. She was only able to receive one after she came down with sepsis – and still spent three days in intensive care, battling for her life.
“My doctor could not intervene as long as [the fetus’] heart was beating or until I was sick enough for the ethics board of the hospital” to provide standard health care, she said at a press conference, per the Associated Press. The infection caused one of her fallopian tubes to close, she added, compromising her ability to have children in the future.
The other plaintiffs, meanwhile, say they were forced to travel out-of-state for abortions even as they dealt with life-threatening complications. “These extreme state abortion bans are creating chaos and confusion for patients and the doctors and hospitals that treat them by criminalizing the provision of abortion,” a press release from the Center states.
At present, a statewide trigger ban prohibits. abortions outright. Compounding the problem is S.B. 8, the so-called “vigilante” measure that outlaws abortions after 6 weeks and opens practitioners up to legal ramifications for performing it, rendering many afraid to do so. The combination leaves both doctors and patients stuck in dangerous situations.
Officials in Texas appear poised to push back at the lawsuit all the same. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the AP via email that he’s “committed to doing everything in his power to protect mothers, families, and unborn children, and … will continue to defend and enforce the laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature.”
In the meantime, pregnant people continue to suffer – people like fellow plaintiff Anna Zargarian, who recalled her own harrowing experience during the press conference on the lawsuit. Her water broke early, but rather than receiving abortion care locally, she was forced to fly to Colorado, endangering her life for a fetus that was not expected to survive.
Says Zargarian, “An already extremely difficult situation had an extra layer of trauma because of medical decisions that were made by lawmakers and politicians and not by me or based on best medical practice.”