Update, 7/20/23: A two-day hearing was held July 19-20, with riveting testimony by some of the women denied abortion care despite dangerous pregnancy complications.
A Texas state court will hear testimony and arguments this week in Zurawski v. State of Texas, a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Texas women denied abortion care despite facing severe pregnancy complications and risks to their health, fertility and lives.
The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, July 19 and Thursday, July 20 starting at 9 a.m. CT/10:00 a.m. ET at the Travis County Civil & Family Courts Facility in Austin. The Center will hold a press briefing immediately after the hearing Wednesday afternoon. The briefing will be streamed live on Facebook.
Five plaintiffs in the case—four women denied abortions and an OB-GYN—and two experts in obstetrics and emergency medicine are scheduled to testify.
The court will decide whether to grant the plaintiffs’ request to temporarily block Texas’s abortion bans as they apply to pregnancy complications and other health conditions that may be difficult to treat during pregnancy while the case proceeds. It will also hear arguments on the state’s request to dismiss the case without having the witnesses give their testimony in court.
“The experiences of the women—all of whom had wanted pregnancies—clearly demonstrate that the state’s abortion bans are endangering the health, fertility and lives of patients facing severe pregnancy complications,” said Molly Duane, senior staff attorney. “The court must act to immediate block these dangerous laws and prevent further irreparable harm to even more Texans.”
Testimony in Zurawski v. State of Texas is scheduled to be given by five of the plaintiffs in the case:
- Amanda Zurawski, who developed sepsis and nearly died after being refused an abortion when her water broke at 18 weeks.
- Ashley Brandt, who was forced to leave the state for abortion care after one of the twins she was carrying was diagnosed with a fatal condition and reduced her other twin’s chances of survival.
- Samantha Casiano, who was forced to carry a nonviable pregnancy to term and give birth to a baby who died four hours after birth.
- Dr. Austin Dennard, an OB-GYN who herself had to travel out of state to receive abortion care for a nonviable pregnancy.
- Dr. Damla Karsan, a Houston-based OB-GYN who provides gynecological, prenatal and obstetric care as part of her practice.
The two experts scheduled to testify are:
- Aaron Caughey, M.D., Ph.D., an expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Professor at Oregon Health & Science University.
- Ali Raja, M.D., an expert in Emergency Medicine and Executive Vice Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School.
Center attorneys Molly Duane, Marc Hearron, Nick Kabat and Astrid Ackerman and Morrison & Foerster LLP attorneys Jamie Levitt and J. Alexander Lawrence will argue on behalf of the plaintiffs.
About Zurawski v. State of Texas
Filed by the Center in March 2023, Zurawski v. State of Texas seeks to clarify the scope of the state’s “medical emergency” exception under its extreme abortion bans. The case was originally brought on behalf of seven original plaintiffs: five Texas women denied abortion care—who as a result faced risks to their health, fertility and lives—and two Texas obstetrician-gynecologists. After the case was announced, several Texans came forward to tell their stories about being denied abortion care, and eight more women joined the case in May as additional plaintiffs, bringing the total number of plaintiffs to 15.
Zurawski v. State of Texas is the first lawsuit brought on behalf of women denied abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022 and cleared the way for states to ban it entirely.
While the Texas laws contain an exception for the life and health of the pregnant person, Texas’s hostile abortion landscape has made physicians afraid to rely on the exception. These extreme bans criminalizing abortion have stoked fear and confusion among pregnant people and doctors throughout the state.
“Texas officials claim the bans they passed protect ‘life,’ but there’s nothing pro-life about them. I nearly died as a direct result of the anti-abortion restrictions in Texas,” said Amanda Zurawski when the case was filed. “What’s more, they put the lives of my potential future children at risk, as the damage done to my body has already had a negative impact on my reproductive health.”
Physicians found to have violated Texas’s abortion laws face fines of at least $100,000, up to 99 years in prison and revocation of their state medical licenses. Such legal risks, combined with the bans’ unclear language, are deterring Texas physicians from providing their patients with abortion care—a necessary, life-saving procedure crucial for treating many dangerous pregnancy conditions to their patients. As a result, patients in Texas have experienced severe physical harm and mental anguish.