Texas women denied abortions despite health risks sue state
Amanda Zurawski's water broke at 17 weeks, far too early for the fetus to survive, but doctors in Texas initially refused to terminate her pregnancy, causing the woman to end up in an ICU with an infection and lose a fallopian tube.
"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," the 35-year-old said.
Zurawski and several other women who sued the conservative US state after they were denied abortions despite serious health complications voiced their grief and trauma Tuesday, as they sought clarity on the new laws
The lawsuit, filed late Monday, is the first such complaint filed by women who have been denied terminations since the US Supreme Court overturned abortion rights in June, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents them.
It "includes devastating, first-hand accounts of women's lives almost lost after they were denied the health care they needed," said Vice President Kamala Harris, who gave them her support in a statement Tuesday.
The women wanted to carry their pregnancies to term but discovered during medical examinations that their fetuses were not viable.
In their complaint, they claim that their doctors refused to perform abortions despite the risks of hemorrhage and infection.
In Zurawski's case, medics finally performed an abortion three days later, after she had developed an infection and had to have one of her fallopian tubes removed.
"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," she said.
The women blame those refusals on the various laws prohibiting abortions in conservative Texas, one of which provides for up to 99 years in prison for doctors who defy the ban.
These laws allow for limited exceptions in case of medical emergencies, such as the threat of death or serious disability to the mother -- but the plaintiffs say they are too vague and ask the courts to "clarify the scope of the exception."
- 'Unbearable' -
Another plaintiff, Lauren Miller, was pregnant with twins when she learned that one of the two fetuses was not viable.
Despite the risks to her own health and to the development of the other fetus, medical staff would not perform an abortion on the nonviable fetus.
"It was like they were afraid that they would be arrested just for saying the word abortion out loud," she said at the press conference.
She had to travel to Colorado, at her own expense, to get the procedure. "I just wanted to curl up and cry and mourn but I couldn't because we had to scramble to make plans to travel out of state for an abortion to give baby A and myself the best chance of surviving this pregnancy."
Still pregnant, she is due at the end of the month.
Anna Zargarian said she also was told her water had broken early.
"My heart broke into a million pieces," the 33-year-old told the press conference.
Like Miller, she had to travel to Colorado to receive care. The flight, she said, was "one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It was like Russian roulette, knowing I was a risk of infection, hemorrhaging or going into labor at any moment."
At 18 weeks of pregnancy, Lauren Hall discovered that her fetus had no skull and would not survive. She had to travel to Seattle to have the pregnancy terminated.
The trip, she said at the press conference, was a "complete blur. But I remember protesters calling us killers, waving posters with pictures of dead babies at us."
She is pregnant again now, she said -- but she fears everything.
"While I was calm during my previous pregnancy I now compulsively look up every ache and pain, terrified that I will find myself in this unbearable situation," the 28-year-old said.
"It kills me that my own state does not seem to care if I live or die."
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the details "shameful and unacceptable."
"Horrifying details of needless pain," the spokeswoman for Democratic President Joe Biden said in a statement. "All because of extreme efforts by Republican officials to take away a woman's right to choose."