On March 7, the Center for Reproductive Rights held a press conference to discuss its groundbreaking lawsuit against the state of Texas seeking to clarify the scope of the state’s “medical emergency” exception under its extreme abortion bans. The case, Zurawski v. State of Texas, was brought on behalf of five Texas women—each denied abortion care after facing severe and dangerous pregnancy complications—and two Texas obstetrician-gynecologists.
At the press conference held outside the Texas State Capitol, four of the women shared their stories, explaining how their inability to access abortion care in Texas posed great risks to their fertility, health, and lives.
Read their remarks and watch highlights below, or watch a full replay of the press conference here.
Hello, my name is Amanda Zurawski, and I’m here to tell you a little bit about my experience with the Texas abortion bans.
Indulge me for a moment and close your eyes. Picture someone you hold incredibly dear. Can you see them? Good. Now imagine someone telling you that you were going to lose that person in the very near future, but they can’t tell you exactly when or how. And on top of that, there is a very high likelihood that you will get extremely sick—maybe even near death—as you wait for that person you love to die.
It sounds like a pretty sick and twisted plot to a dystopian novel but it’s not. It’s what happened to me while pregnant in Texas.
About six months ago, I was thrilled to be cruising through the second trimester of my first pregnancy. I was carrying our daughter, Willow, who had finally, blissfully been conceived after 18 months of gruelling fertility treatment. My husband and I were beyond thrilled.
Then, on a sunny August day, after I had just finished the invite list for the baby shower my sister was planning for me, everything changed. Some unexpected and curious symptoms arrived and I contacted my obstetrician to be safe, and was surprised when I was told to come in as soon as possible. After a brief examination, my husband and I received the harrowing news that I had dilated prematurely due to a condition known as cervical insufficiency. Soon after, my membranes ruptured, and we were told by multiple doctors that the loss of our daughter was inevitable.
I asked what could 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.
My healthcare team was anguished as they explained there was nothing they could do because of Texas’s anti-abortion laws, the latest of which had taken effect two days after my water broke. It meant that even though we would, with complete certainty, lose Willow, my doctor could not intervene as long as her heart was beating or until I was sick enough for the ethics board at the hospital to consider my life at risk and permit the standard healthcare I needed at that point—an abortion.
So even though I had lost all of my amniotic fluid—something an unborn child simply cannot survive without—we had to wait. I cannot adequately put into words the trauma and despair that comes with waiting to either lose your own life, your child’s, or both. For days, I was locked in this bizarre and avoidable hell. Would Willow’s heart stop, or would I deteriorate to the brink of death?
The answer arrived three long days later. In a matter of minutes, I went from being physically healthy to developing sepsis—a condition in which bacteria in the blood develops into infection, with the ability to kill in under an hour. I spent the next three days in the Intensive Care Unit, surrounded by family who booked last-minute flights because they feared for my life. I spent another three days in a less critical unit of the hospital—all because I was denied access to reasonable healthcare due to Texas’s new abortion bans.
What I needed was an abortion, a standard medical procedure. 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 hope and dream I can still have one day.
Two things I know for sure: The preventable harm inflicted on me will, medically, make it harder than it already was for me to get pregnant again. The barbaric restrictions our lawmakers have passed are having real life implications on real people. I may have been one of the first who was affected by the overturning of Roe in Texas, but I’m certainly not the last. More people have been and will continue to be harmed until we do something about it.
The people in the building behind me have the power to fix this yet they’ve done nothing. In fact, they’re currently trying to pass even more restrictive measures. So it’s not just for me, and for our Willow, that I stand here before you today—it’s for every pregnant person, and for everyone who knows and loves a pregnant person. It is with and for all Texans who, like me, are scared and outraged at the thought of being pregnant in this state that I stand and fight.
At this time I’d like to introduce my fellow plaintiff, Lauren Hall.
Last year, my husband and I found out that we were expecting a baby girl. We were nervous about being parents, but so excited about this new phase of our lives. We began to prepare, gathering things like a crib, baby clothes, and maternity dresses. We told our families, and after some time, we settled on naming her Amelia. During my visits to my obstetrician, all the tests showed that our baby was healthy. There was a strong heartbeat, and genetic testing didn’t indicate any problems.
It was when we went in for our anatomy scan at 18 weeks (about 4 months) that everything changed. The maternal-fetal specialist sadly told us that our baby had anencephaly, a condition that causes a baby to develop with no skull and very little brain matter. The words she used, “incompatible with life,” kept echoing in my mind. I became hysterical, and while my husband was holding back tears of his own, he asked the specialist what we should do. The doctor hesitantly told us of our two options; wait to miscarry or seek abortion services outside of Texas. Stunned, my husband asked if there was no exception in the state abortion ban for cases like ours. I knew the answer, but I let the doctor speak, hoping she would offer alternatives or some secret knowledge that we weren’t privy to.
She quietly and carefully explained to us that if we chose to terminate, we would have to leave my lifelong home of Texas. She suggested a few states that didn’t have abortion bans but told us she would not be able to send our records or make a referral; we were completely on our own. Additionally, she told us to tell only people who absolutely needed to know. She instructed us to say nothing to friends or coworkers, say nothing at the airport, and say nothing until the procedure was done.
Over the next few days, I could not reach my obstetrician, who had undoubtedly already received the report from the specialist. As my mental state spiraled, I considered checking myself into the hospital in the hopes that I could be given a sedative or something to help me calm down; however, not knowing how other providers would react if they learned we were contemplating an abortion, I opted to go without care.
The following Monday, my husband and I showed up to our obstetrician’s office demanding to be seen, and to get some guidance about our next steps. But they refused to see us without an appointment. That evening, someone from the clinic finally called me; she let me know about online support groups for women who chose to carry anencephalic babies for as long as possible and reiterated that I could not get an abortion in Texas. By this point we had made our decision and booked an appointment at a clinic in Seattle. I would not receive a call from my obstetrician for 11 days (about 1 and a half weeks), after which time we had already returned home.
The trip to Seattle is a complete blur but I remember protesters calling us killers, waving posters with pictures of dead babies at us as we drove to the clinic, and I remember the doctors and staff being incredibly kind and understanding. We received outstanding care in Seattle during the most traumatic time in our lives; care I had wished I could have received in my own state. It was not lost on us how fortunate we were to have the resources to make the trip out of state, as undoubtedly countless other families will not have the same options that we did.
Now that we are expecting again, a baby boy this time, we fear 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 again. 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.
I love Texas, and it kills me that my own state does not seem to care if I live or die.
I have a 19-month-old son. So, as we say in Texas, this is not my first rodeo. But from the very beginning, this pregnancy was nothing like my first.
Pregnancy is never easy. The nausea, the exhaustion, the shooting nerve pain in your joints.
Before I’d even had my first prenatal appointment, I found myself in the Emergency Room after 36 hours of relentless nausea and vomiting. This wasn’t normal.
But that was when I learned it was twins! Despite the shock and extreme sickness, I was thrilled. I had always wanted three kids!
I reached out to friends with twins for advice and started planning a celestial-themed nursery. We called them “Los Dos” (“The Two”) and, every night before we went to sleep, my husband gave my belly two kisses.
Everything changed at the 12-week ultrasound. The doctor explained that while Baby A was fine, the same couldn’t be said for Baby B. In addition to measuring smaller than expected, he had two large fluid masses where his brain should be developing.
Further testing revealed that our baby had Trisomy 18 and additional ultrasounds showed one heartbreaking issue after another.
You never want to hear a doctor say your son isn’t going to survive, not even to birth. But what could we do?
As my medical providers tried to counsel me on my options, they would stop mid-sentence looking for the right words. It was like they were afraid they would be arrested just for saying the word “abortion” out loud.
I’ll never forget when one specialist tore off his gloves in frustration and threw them at the trash. “I can’t help you anymore,” he said. “You need to leave the state.”
His directness was refreshing.
After speaking with multiple doctors and genetic counselors, we kept arriving at the same point: 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 higher risk — something that I faced when days later, I had to go to the ER for a second time. None of the anti-nausea medicines were working, and I was shaking and dry heaving so violently that I could not drive.
I just wanted to curl up and cry and mourn. But I couldn’t. Because I had to scramble to make plans to travel out-of-state for an abortion to make sure Baby A and I would have the best chance of surviving this pregnancy.
We just felt completely lost, like we were in a dark room feeling for a door. We couldn’t even get answers to basic questions.
I’m here today because I don’t want anyone else to go through anything like what we went through.
Politicians have tried to turn Texans against one another. To sow confusion and doubt. To make us wary of people we should trust. To create pain and punish those without extensive resources.
I was lucky. I had connections to out-of-state doctors. I had family to watch my son. We had the time and money to make the journey. But layers of privilege should never determine which Texans can get access to the healthcare they need.
Politicians in Texas are prohibiting healthcare that they don’t understand. They could do something. But they’re not. And it’s killing us.
It shouldn’t be controversial for an individual to make the best healthcare decision for themselves in consultation with their doctors. But you can’t get that in Texas anymore.
This is not healthcare.
Healthcare should not be determined by some politician with no understanding of medicine or the critical role that abortion plays in pregnancy care. How is it that I can get an abortion for a dog, but not for me? As politicians dehumanize us, please remember that we are real people harmed by these policies. You could find yourself or someone you love in this situation.
I have lost one baby already. And if the Texas legislature had gotten its way, it would be less likely that I and the child that I’m about to bring into the world would still be alive today.
Hello, my name is Anna.
In September of 2021, my longtime partner Scott and I got a little surprise. I was pregnant and although it was not expected, we were thrilled. I’ve always wanted to be a mom. Texas’s abortion law S.B. 8 had just been enacted and I remember thinking to myself, ‘well, good thing I don’t need an abortion cause I’d only have about a day to get one.’
I felt good in those early months, we had a fun but modest wedding, and zeroed in on a name, Evie. Then, one day in December, something was all of a sudden very wrong. I felt a gush of fluid and knew my water had broken. We went to the emergency room, tests were taken and we were told my membranes had ruptured prematurely, a condition known as PPROM.
The doctors explained how amniotic fluid is so important to the development of the baby’s organs up until around 24 weeks. But that was more than a month away. And they said even with the best neonatal intensive care, a fetus cannot survive outside the womb at 19 weeks.
My heart broke into a million pieces. I didn’t even know a pain like that could exist until that moment. Through tears I asked, “What does this mean now?”
In every case of rupture this early, they said, termination is recommended and offered due to the risk of sepsis or bleeding and because the chances of the baby surviving are slim to none. But then they said that under Texas abortion law S.B. 8, they could not offer me the termination I needed until my life was actively in danger. Because a fetal heartbeat could be detected, all they could do was wait and see if I would go into labor naturally or suffer a life-threatening complication that would allow them to intervene.
I was so hurt and dumbfounded—all at the same time. I couldn’t understand what was going on. The child I was so excited for wasn’t going to live, and I needed an abortion to preserve my health but couldn’t get one in Texas. The serious threat to my body and to my health came as a total shock. I kept thinking, if this goes badly, will I ever be able to carry another pregnancy?
More than anything, I needed to be home in the midst of a medical crisis. I begged many Texas doctors to give me the care I needed:
“Please just induce me while I’m still strong and healthy! There must be an exception for this situation!”
They said they wanted to help, but couldn’t under Texas law. Where else in medicine do we do nothing and just wait and see how sick a patient becomes before acting? Finally, one Texas doctor told me, you’re wasting your time trying to obtain help here at home.
So, in my cloud of grief I spent the next few hours coordinating flights, hotels—and worst of all—trying to find an out-of-state abortion clinic that could schedule me immediately. But they were all booked far in advance due to the influx of Texas patients after S.B. 8. Finally, after explaining my diagnosis and the time sensitivity, I got an appointment.
I’m still upset that Texas robbed me of that time to breathe and to grieve and to take in what was happening to us.
Getting on that flight to Colorado was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It was like Russian roulette knowing I was at risk of infection, hemorrhaging or going into labor at any moment of the 2 ½ hour flight. I spoke to my OB-GYN the day of my flight to formulate a plan, and made sure to pay extra for seats close to the restroom. I still suffer mental health consequences, including severe PTSD, because I had to fly during a medical crisis.
As a human being and a patient, I felt like I had no choice during this nightmare. What I needed most in that moment was the choice Texas lawmakers robbed me of—the choice to lose my child with dignity and with respect for my body and well-being and future.
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. And that’s why I’ve made this choice to join this lawsuit, so that other people don’t have to go through what we went through.
People who think overturning Roe won’t affect them—either because they can’t get pregnant or would never choose an abortion—need to know what is going on because of these laws. Believe me, you never know when you or someone you love will need one.
The State of Texas says they want to preserve life by banning safe legal abortions, but I’ve never felt my life mattered less than it did during this situation.