This was from last week, and I’ve been thinking about it since.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, one of the five women suing Texas for abortion access blamed the state’s Republican senators for her near-death experience when she was denied reproductive care in the state.
“I nearly died on their watch,” Amanda Zurawski said, naming U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, who both sit on the committee. “And furthermore, as a result of what happened to me, I may have been robbed of the opportunity to have children in the future — and it’s because of the policies they support.”
The state’s ban allows for exceptions only when there is “substantial” risk to a mother or if a fetus has a fatal diagnosis. But many doctors and hospitals have been fearful of intervening even when there is a clear danger because of the stiff penalties for anyone who violates the ban, including potential prison sentences of up to 99 years, tens of thousands of dollars in fines and the loss of medical licenses.
Zurawski was 17 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with a condition called cervical insufficiency, which had caused her to dilate too soon for her baby to survive. The morning after her water broke, Zurawski still hadn’t gone into labor, but doctors in the emergency room told her there was nothing they could do for her because the baby still had a heartbeat.
Zurawksi later developed sepsis, a life-threatening condition, and the hospital agreed to perform the abortion. After delivering and losing her daughter, Willow, Zurawski developed a secondary infection and was entered into the intensive care unit, where she spent three days.
Zurawsi testified that she is still dealing with “paralyzing trauma” from the “preventable harm” she suffered, which she said “has already made it harder for me to get pregnant again.”
“I may have been one of the first who was affected by the overturning of Roe in Texas, but I certainly will not be the last,” she said.
“You have the power to fix this,” she said, addressing the panel of senators. “You owe it to me and to Willow and to every other person who may become pregnant in this country to protect our right to safe and accessible health care, emergency or no emergency. Your job is to protect the lives of the people who elected you, not endanger them.”
See here and here for more on the lawsuit, and here and here for more about the polling and politics stuff. Ms. Zurawski is as sympathetic and compelling a spokesperson as one could want. This was a wanted pregnancy that was derailed by medical issues – all of which happened after 15 weeks, by the way – and she suffered greatly and nearly died because doctors couldn’t treat her due to Texas’ laws; she may now be unable to get pregnant again as a result. You could argue, as the forced birthers are already doing, that the fault lies with the doctors, who just misinterpreted the laws. But when it’s your profession and a 99-year prison sentence on the line, no one is going to put themselves out on a limb. This is, again, the intent of the law, as embodied by the likes of Sen. Angela Paxton and her opposition to any exceptions for the life of the mother.
The bottom line here is that I believe that a vast majority of Texans would agree with the position that Ms. Zurawski should not have had to go through all that, she should have been able to get the care that she needed, which in this case was an abortion. There was a clear medical need, any reasonable person would have expected to receive it, and if the laws are an obstacle to her and her doctors then those laws should be changed. That’s what her lawsuit is about. If there were a way for there to be a statewide ballot proposition for this specific issue, I’d expect it to pass.
But just adding in an explicit “health of the mother” exception to our laws as they exist now, while being popular and clearly needed, would still leave Texas in a far more restricted place for abortion access than it was even two years ago. Note that we are only talking “health of the mother” exceptions; rape and incest would still not be an acceptable reason for an abortion. And, not to put too fine a point on it, there would still be absolutely no “abortion because it’s my choice and my body and this is what I want” allowance. No Democrat running against Ted Cruz or any other forced-birth Republican in 2024 is going to stop at this point in their abortion rights advocacy. They don’t believe in anything so limited, and their existing supporters would be rightly upset at such a change in their posture.
And so that’s the challenge. Plenty of people would support the Zurawski exception. Fewer, quite a bit fewer, would support – and more crucially, be willing to vote for politicians who support – the pre-Dobbs landscape. Note that Zurawski herself is not calling for just “health of the mother” exceptions – she wants “to protect our right to safe and accessible health care, emergency or no emergency”. How do we get the majority that is surely there for something narrow into a majority for something broader? Like I said, this is what we need to be working on. Daily Kos and Slate have more.