Roe v. Wade Was Reversed. It Nearly Killed These Pregnant Women Who Desperately Wanted Children
Since the reversal one year ago of Roe v. Wade, women are demanding strict abortion laws be done away with after saying their pregnancies, which they dearly wanted, nearly killed them.
Amanda Zurawski desperately wanted to have a baby. She and her husband were over the moon to learn she was carrying their first child.
That was last summer. They were having a girl, their doctor said. They named her Willow.
In August 2022, on an unbearably hot Texas day, Zurawski had just finished the invitation list for her baby shower when something began to run down her leg. "I didn't really know whether that was normal or not," she tells Inside Edition Digital.
That night, things went to hell.
She was 17 weeks and six days pregnant when a frightened Zurawski told her husband, "I feel like my body is opening up." It essentially was. Her cervix had begun dilating and then her water broke. "I lost all of my amniotic fluid," she says.
She was terrified.
"This was a baby that we wanted desperately," she says. "We underwent a year and a half of fertility treatment."
Zurawski was in her second trimester when she and her husband went to the hospital. She would go back and forth over the next few days, as health care workers told her there was little they could do because of the state's new, extremely strict abortion laws that effectively banned the medical procedure.
Abortion was a constitutional right until June 24 of last year, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a bombshell reversal that invalidated the 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade.
The 2022 ruling was Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
When it comes to the health of the mother, new Texas law states an abortion can be performed if the woman faces "a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy." Texas was the first state to enact severe abortion limits after the high court's 2022 reversal.
Since then, medical professionals have said the laws are too vague, and some doctors are erring on the side of not performing the medical procedure at all, fearing they could face felony charges, the loss of their licenses, or jail time.
Zurawski says her medical team was sincerely anguished by her circumstances, but said their hands were tied.
"Because the baby's heart was still beating ... they couldn't do anything," Zurawski recalls. On day three, as her fever spiked and she felt near delirium, she finally was admitted to the medical center, where she was diagnosed with sepsis, a life-threatening infection.
"So first, they had to stabilize me," she says. Then she had to deliver the stillborn fetus, "which seems insane looking back," she says. After that, her vital signs crashed and she was taken to the intensive care unit, where she spent the next three days fighting for her life.
Zurawski doesn't know if she'll ever be able to get pregnant again. The sepsis caused extensive scarring in her uterus. One of her fallopian tubes is permanently closed, she said.
Three months ago, an extremely nervous Zurawski sat in Washington, D.C., before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing titled “The Assault on Reproductive Rights in a Post-Dobbs America."
She told the story of losing her baby and nearly losing her life before an audience that initially included the two senators elected to represent her, ultra-conservative Republicans Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both vehement opponents of abortion rights.
But the senators had left the committee room when she began testifying.
"I would like for them to know that what happened to me is a direct result of the policies they support," she said during the televised hearing.
"I nearly died on their watch," she testified. "And I may have been robbed of the opportunity to have children in the future."
Her suffering, she said, would have exponentially lessened if she had received an abortion after her water broke.
"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," she told the senators. "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?"
Zurawski is one of 15 plaintiffs now suing Texas, saying its abortion laws endanger the lives of pregnant people who face medical emergencies.
"What happened to these women is indefensible and is happening to countless pregnant people across the state," said Molly Duane, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, earlier this year. The center now represents 13 women and two doctors suing Texas.
As of June, there are 14 states including Texas that ban abortions. A total of 40 lawsuits have been filed challenging new state prohibitions, and 29 of those are now pending at trial or appellate levels, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Brennan Center for Justice.
Thus far, the South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled the state's constitution protects abortion rights while the Idaho Supreme Court ruled the opposite, the centers said.
In the middle are several states that have upheld rights to the medical procedure when a pregnant woman's health is endangered.
Zurawski, 36, has detailed her harrowing brush with death to Congress members and reporters and says she will keep telling her story until the new laws change.
The lawsuit she joined seeks clarification on state restrictions governing endangered pregnant patients.
"Look at the impact it's having on women," she says. "They don't seem to care. They can't even be bothered to stick around in a room to listen to me tell my story."
And there are many other women whose heartache matches hers, she says.
The Voices of Other Pregnant Patients Who Struggled to Save Their Own Lives
On a Tuesday in March, Zurawski stood outside the Texas capitol in Austin, alongside other women who told reporters their harrowing stories about pregnancy loss and nearly losing their lives.
Like Zurawski, the women were plaintiffs in the suit against Texas. Its new restrictions do not allow exemptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
Lauren Hall, a 28-year-old nurse, became pregnant last year, she said. She and her husband learned they were having a girl. They named her Amelia, and friends and family began delivering baby gifts.
But at 18 weeks, her doctor delivered horrible news. Hall's fetus had been diagnosed with anencephaly, a serious birth defect that prevents development of the brain and skull. Most babies diagnosed with the condition are stillborn, she was told, and those that weren't did not survive beyond hours or days.
Medical workers gave Hall and her husband two options — wait until she miscarried, or seek an abortion in another state where the medical procedure remained legal, she said. But her doctor warned that under Texas' new abortion laws, he wouldn't be able to forward her medical records should she travel out of state.
And he warned, she shouldn't tell anyone if she did travel out of state because it was unclear how far Texas would go to prosecute those involved with someone seeking abortion care.
“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 told reporters.
Eventually, she was able to obtain an appointment for an abortion in Seattle, Washington. She had tried other states where the procedure is legal, but clinics there were full up, she said. And the clock was ticking. Each day she remained pregnant increased the chances she could experience life-threatening complications, she said.
Every part of her experience was traumatic, she said. She and her husband were devastated to learn their baby would not survive, and she was terrified of miscarrying and being unable to summon help. "She did not want to end up bleeding to death on the bathroom floor," the lawsuit said.
Yet even in Seattle, as she walked toward the clinic, she was confronted by protesters “calling us killers and waving pictures with dead babies at us," she said at the news conference.
She and her husband tried again to become parents. A pregnant Hall told reporters she is still consumed by fear.
“I compulsively look up every ache and pain, terrified that I will find myself in this unbearable situation again,” she said.
Women across the country have said they, too, suffered the same fate trying to end non-viable pregnancies to protect themselves.
In Missouri, Mylissa Farmer's water broke at 17 weeks. Her amniotic fluid was gone, leaving her at serious risk for infection or losing her uterus, doctors at two hospitals told her, she said. Both facilities declined to perform an abortion because the fetus retained a heartbeat, she said.
“It was dehumanizing. It was terrifying. It was horrible not to get the care to save your life,” Farmer told The Associated Press last month. "I felt like I was responsible to do something, to say something, to not have this happen again to another woman."
She was eventually able to obtain a legal abortion in Illinois, she said. She spoke publicly of her experience.
Federal health officials later determined that both hospitals violated federal law and jeopardized her life, The AP reported, citing documents obtained by the news agency.
“Fortunately, this patient survived. But she never should have gone through the terrifying ordeal she experienced in the first place,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said about the case.
"We want her, and every patient out there like her, to know that we will do everything we can to protect their lives and health, and to investigate and enforce the law to the fullest extent of our legal authority, in accordance with orders from the courts,” Becerra said.
Federal law requires that patients in emergency situations be treated. It encompasses facilities that receive federal reimbursement for health care costs, which most hospitals receive.
The two hospitals were told to correct their policies, The AP reported, and that federal Medicare investigators would follow up before closing the case.
In Texas, a spokesperson for Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is named as a defendant in the women's lawsuit, issued a statement after the complaint was filed in March.
“Attorney General Paxton is committed to doing everything in his power to protect mothers, families and unborn children, and he will continue to defend and enforce the laws duly enacted by the Texas legislature,” the statement said.
Paxton, an aggressive opponent of abortion, filed a lawsuit in February against the Biden administration, challenging federal guidelines requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions for abortion-inducing medication.
“The Biden Administration knows that it has no legal authority to institute this radical abortion agenda, so now it’s trying to intimidate every pharmacy in America by threatening to withhold federal funds,” Paxton said in a statement at the time. “It’s not going to work.”
In late May, the Republican-led Texas House took the extraordinary step of impeaching Paxton, also a Republican, accusing him of accepting bribes, abusing his office, breaking the law and obstructing justice. Paxton has been suspended from office pending a trial in the Senate.
The attorney general has denied all allegations against him and called the House vote "illegal" and said it was fueled by "the abortion industry" and "anti-gun zealots," trying to derail his lawsuits against the Biden administration.
His Senate trial is slated to begin no later than Aug. 28.
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