5 Women Sue Texas Over Abortion Law

Plaintiffs say they were denied abortions despite deadly risk to themselves and their fetuses
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2023 8:43 AM CST
Women Sue Texas to Clarify Abortion Exceptions
People march through 8th Street in downtown Boise, Idaho, on May 3, 2022, in response to the news that the US Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.   (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman via AP, File)

Five women are suing the state of Texas, saying they were denied abortions despite deadly risks to themselves and their fetuses. But they aren't requesting that the state's abortion ban be overturned. Rather, they want a court to clarify that the law does allow for abortion if the woman has a "physical emergent medical condition" that can't be treated during pregnancy or would otherwise harm the pregnancy, or the fetus is unlikely to develop into "a living child with sustained life," per the New York Times. The Texas Medical Association has also asked the state to clarify its abortion exceptions, with some doctors claiming hospitals are blocking "medically appropriate and possibly lifesaving services."

Texas' law provides exceptions if a fetus has a fatal diagnosis or if "a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy" places the pregnant woman "at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function." Anti-abortion groups argue the law is only meant to prevent abortions that end an unwanted pregnancy. But some doctors are refusing to perform abortions on the basis that the law is too vague and a permitted procedure might be challenged, putting them at risk of lengthy prison sentences and the loss of medical licenses. Though her fetus was unviable, plaintiff Amanda Zurawski—Jill Biden's guest at the State of the Union—was denied an abortion for days until she developed a blood infection that put her life in danger.

She "twice became septic, and was left with so much scar tissue that one of her fallopian tubes is permanently closed," per the Times. "Because of the law, I very nearly died," Zurawski, 35, tells NBC News. "Nothing about this is pro-life." The four other women also learned their fetuses were unviable. "Two had no skulls, and two others were threatening the lives of their twins," per the Times. Still, they had to travel out of state for abortions. "It puts a face on the reality of what it means when you criminalize abortion care. It shows that abortion care is health care," says Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is backing the suit. It names Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, who's railed against turning "emergency rooms into walk-in abortion clinics," as a defendant, per WION. (Read more abortion stories.)

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