“For days, I was locked in this bizarre and avoidable hell,” Amanda Zurawski said Tuesday outside the Texas state Capitol.
She’s one of five women suing the state over its restrictive abortion law after they were denied the procedure despite their lives being in danger—and their doctors confirming their fetuses would not survive birth. Their lawsuit seeks to affirm that doctors in Texas can provide abortions for certain medical exceptions, and seeks specific directives that outline what conditions qualify for a legal abortion in the state.
Here are the stories of each plaintiff and their experience with Texas’ abortion law, as detailed in statements to the media and in court documents:
Zurawski went through fertility treatments for over a year before she finally became pregnant with her first child. Eighteen weeks in, her doctor told her she had cervical insufficiency and that the fetus would eventually die.* She asked what her options were and her health care team said there was nothing they could do because of Texas’ anti-abortion law. Zurawksi’s doctors could not intervene until her fetus no longer had a detectable heartbeat or she herself became deathly ill—so she had to wait. Soon, Zurawksi developed sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection, and her family flew to her bedside, fearing her death. Doctors were finally able to induce delivery without violating Texas’ abortion law. “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.”
Hall became pregnant last year, but at 18 weeks her specialist told her that her baby had anencephaly, a life-threatening condition that prevents the fetus from developing a skull or brain. Hall’s doctor said she had two options: wait to miscarry or travel out of state to get a legal abortion. However, if Hall decided to go out of state, her doctor wouldn’t be able to send any of her medical records to her new out-of-state provider. Hall said she tried contacting other Texas doctors for help, but none would take her case. “Providers are scared to treat cases like ours without guidelines from the state, and more people will suffer and lose their lives if a change is not made,” she said outside the state Capitol Tuesday. Hall ended up booking a flight to Seattle to get an abortion. One year later, she’s pregnant again. “I compulsively look up every ache and pain, terrified that I will find myself in this unbearable situation again.”
Miller was pregnant with twins, and at her 12-week ultrasound, her doctor found that one of her fetuses had Trisomy 18, a rare birth defect that was preventing proper brain development. Her doctors said this fetus would likely not survive outside of Miller’s womb. Her Texas doctor said he could not help her and that she needed to go out of state to get an abortion. The longer she waited, the more endangered she would become, along with her remaining healthy fetus. She ended up traveling out of state to get an abortion. Speaking at Tuesday’s press conference, she acknowledged that she had access to critical resources to help her, including family to watch her 1-year-old son while she traveled and personal connections with doctors outside of Texas. “Layers of privilege should never determine which Texans can get access to the health care they need,” she said. Miller is currently pregnant with her remaining fetus.
Zargarian found out she was pregnant in 2021, shortly before Texas’ abortion ban went into effect. A few months into her pregnancy, her water broke—known as premature rupture of membranes—and doctors said her fetus would not survive. “My heart broke into a million pieces,” she said. Her doctors said the fetus’ chances of survival were slim to none, and, under Texas’ abortion law, they couldn’t offer her an abortion until her life was actively in danger. One doctor eventually told her she was wasting her time in Texas trying to get the health care she needed, so she finally booked a flight to Colorado to get an abortion. “It was like Russian roulette knowing I was at risk of infection, hemorrhaging, or going into labor at any moment” of the two-and-a-half-hour flight.
Last year, Brandt, who is already mother to a 3-year-old son, discovered she was pregnant with twins. At her 12-week ultrasound, Brandt’s doctor informed her that one of the fetuses also had anencephaly and would not survive labor. However, the fetus still had a detectable heartbeat, taking abortion off the table under Texas law. According to the lawsuit, she had to travel out of state for an abortion to save the life of her remaining fetus. Brandt’s doctor was so fearful of documenting her abortion care, the lawsuit said, that he described her condition as “vanishing twin syndrome”—a completely different medical condition that causes a miscarriage.
Correction, March 8, 2023: This piece originally misstated the stage of pregnancy at which Zurawski received her diagnosis; she was 18 weeks pregnant, not six months.