'My heart broke into a million pieces': The stories behind the Texas abortion ban lawsuit

Posted at 8:08 PM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 23:02:19-05

AUSTIN, Texas — Five previously pregnant women in Texas are joining a lawsuit against the state, seeking clarification to the near-total ban on abortions.

All of the women behind the lawsuit said they were all ready to be mothers and so excited when they found out they were pregnant. The problem is after a few weeks, each one faced a different complication. One the fetus would not survive, and it was likely they would not either unless they terminated their pregnancies.

When Amanda Zurawski discovered she was finally pregnant after 18 months of fertility treatment, she was so happy.

"My husband and I were beyond thrilled," she said.

But their happy pregnancy turned into a nightmare at about 17 weeks. Zurawaski was diagnosed with cervical insufficiency and preterm pre-labor rupture of membranes. That means her amniotic sac ruptured early. Doctors said the fetus no chance of survival and she was at risk for infection and hemorrhage.

"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," she remembered. "My healthcare team was anguished as they told me there was nothing they could do due to Texas' anti-abortion laws."

Texas' law bans all abortions, but there is an exemption for if the mother's life is at risk. Zurawaski wasn't considered at risk until three days later when she developed sepsis and was rushed to the ICU.

"When I was back and forth to and from the hospital, while I was waiting in the hospital, while I was still in the hospital, I was pretty outraged," she told 25 News.

She said she was outraged she was forced to continue her pregnancy despite no chance of survival until the infection, which then caused damage to her fallopian tubes making it even harder for her to get pregnant again.

"What surprises me over and over again is the number of people who reach out to me saying they had a similar experience," Zurawaski said.

One of those women being Anna Zargarian.

"My heart broke into a million pieces," Zaragarian said of the experience. "I didn't even know a pain like that could exist until that moment."

Her water broke at 19 weeks, again giving the fetus no chance of survival and putting herself at risk.

"More than anything I needed to be home in the midst of a medical crisis," she said. "I begged my doctors to give me the medical care I needed. Please just induce me while I'm still strong and healthy."

Being denied an abortion, she was discharged and sent home. Zargarian then had to travel to Colorado for the procedure while cramping and with a fever and other early signs of infection.

"Where else in medicine do we do nothing and just wait to see how sick a patient becomes before acting?" she asked.

These women are just two of the five who filed a lawsuit against the state seeking clarification to the abortion laws and exemptions.

"We filed this lawsuit so that patients will not be hindered, delayed or denied necessary care including abortion care," Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup said.

They say the law as is prohibits women from getting the procedure even when their life is at risk.

"The law written does not use medical terminology, which is why physicians are left floundering to figure out what it is to do during these emergency situations," lead attorney Molly Duane said.

Lauren Hall was denied an abortion after she found out at 18 weeks her fetus had not developed a skull and also had no chance of survival.

"The doctor hesitantly told us of our two options: wait to miscarry or seek abortion services outside Texas," she said.

Despite the health risks Hall faced if she took the first option, she also did not qualify for an abortion under the Texas law.

As she dealt with both the mental and physical impact of the condition, she and her husband traveled to Washington state get the procedure.

"I would love to see nobody ever have to go through this," she said. "It's been terrible and I know for a fact that we had immense help and privilege getting where we needed to go to get the procedure. Most people who encounter these issues will not have the same resources we did."

The Halls are now expecting another child and many of these women are trying to conceive again.

They say they are scared for their own pregnancies and those of other women in Texas if there aren't any changes.