Texas woman almost dies because she couldn’t get an abortion
Another woman has come forward with the harrowing details of how the Supreme Court’s decision four months ago to overturn Roe v. Wade put her life in danger.
CNN has told the stories of several women – including one from Houston, one from central Texas and one from Cleveland – and what they had to do to obtain medically necessary abortions.
Now, a woman from Austin, Texas, has come forward because she nearly died when she couldn’t get a timely abortion.
This is her story.
Amanda Eid and Josh Zurawski, both now 35, met in 1991 at Aldersgate Academy preschool in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and dated in high school.
“Josh always tells me he’s been in love with me since we were 4 years old,” Amanda said.
Three years ago, they married in Austin, Texas, where they both work in high-tech jobs.
They tried to have a family but failed. Amanda had fertility treatments for a year and a half and finally became pregnant.
“Very excited to share that Baby Zurawski is expected in late January,” Amanda shared on Instagram in July. The post included a picture of her and her husband in “Mama” and “Dad” hats, Amanda holding a strip of ultrasound photos of their baby girl.
“The fact that we were pregnant at all was a miracle, and we were beside ourselves with happiness,” she said.
But then, 18 weeks – just four months – into her pregnancy, Amanda’s water broke.
The amniotic fluid that her baby depended upon was leaking out. She says her doctor told her the baby would not survive.
“We found out that we were going to lose our baby,” Amanda said. “My cervix was dilating fully 22 weeks prematurely, and I was inevitably going to miscarry.”
She and Josh begged the doctor to see if there was any way to save the baby.
“I just kept asking, ‘isn’t there anything we can do?’ And the answer was ‘no,’ ” Amanda said.
When a woman’s water breaks, she’s at high risk for a life-threatening infection. While Amanda and Josh’s baby – they named her Willow – was sure to die, she still had a heartbeat, and so doctors said that under Texas law, they were unable to terminate the pregnancy.
“My doctor said, ‘Well, right now we just have to wait, because we can’t induce labor, even though you’re 100% for sure going to lose your baby,’ ” Amanda said. “[The doctors] were unable to do their own jobs because of the way that the laws are written in Texas.”
Texas law allows for abortion if the mother “has a life-threatening physical condition aggravated, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”
But Texas lawmakers haven’t spelled out exactly what that means, and a doctor found to be in violation of the law can face loss of their medical license and a possible life sentence in prison.
“They’re extremely vague,” said Katie Keith, director of the Health Policy and Law Initiative at Georgetown University Law Center. “They don’t spell out exactly the situations when an abortion can be provided.”
In September, CNN reached out to 28 Texas legislators who sponsored anti-abortion legislation, asking them for their response to CNN stories about the woman in Houston and the woman in central Texas.
Only one legislator responded.
“Like any other law, there are unintended consequences. We do not want to see any unintended consequences; if we do, it is our responsibility as legislators to fix those flaws,” wrote state Sen. Eddie Lucio, who will be leaving the Senate at the end of the year.
The Zurawskis participated in an ad for Beto O’Rourke’s unsuccessful Texas gubernatorial campaign.
After her water broke, Amanda’s doctors sent her home and told her to watch for signs of infection, and that only when she was “considered sick enough that my life was at risk” would they terminate the pregnancy, Amanda said.
“My doctor said it could take hours, it could take days, it could take weeks,” she remembers.
Once they heard “hours,” they decided there was no time to travel to another state for an abortion.
“The nearest ‘sanctuary’ state is at least an eight-hour drive,” Amanda wrote in an online essay on The Meteor. “Developing sepsis – which can kill quickly – in a car in the middle of the West Texas desert, or 30,000 feet above the ground, is a death sentence.”
So they waited it out in Texas.
On August 26, three days after her water broke, Amanda found herself shivering in the Texas heat.
“We were having a heat wave, I think it was 105 degrees that day, and I was freezing cold, and I was shaking, my teeth were chattering. I was trying to tell Josh that I didn’t feel good, and my teeth were chattering so hard that I could not even get the sentence out,” she said.
Josh was shocked by his wife’s condition.
“To see in a matter of maybe five minutes, for her to go from a normal temperature to the condition she was in was really, really scary,” he said. “Very quickly, she went downhill very, very fast. She was in a state I’ve never seen her in.”
Josh rushed his wife to the hospital. Her temperature was 102 degrees. She was too weak to walk on her own.
Her temperature went up to 103 degrees. Finally, Amanda was sick enough that the doctors felt legally safe to terminate the pregnancy, she said.
But Amanda was so sick that antibiotics wouldn’t stop the bacterial infection raging through her body. A blood transfusion didn’t cure her, either.
About 12 hours after her pregnancy was terminated, doctors and nurses flooded her room.
“There’s a lot of commotion, and I said, ‘what’s going on?’ and they said, ‘we’re moving you to the ICU,’ and I said, ‘why?’ and they said, ‘you’re developing symptoms of sepsis,’ ” she said.
Sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection, is a life-threatening medical emergency.
Amanda’s blood pressure plummeted. Her platelets dropped. She doesn’t remember much from that time.
But Josh does.
“It was really scary to see Amanda crash,” he said. “I was really scared I was going to lose her.”
Family members flew in from across the country because they feared it would be the last time they would see Amanda.
Doctors inserted an intravenous line near her heart to deliver antibiotics and medication to stabilize her blood pressure. Finally, Amanda turned the corner and survived.
But her medical ordeal isn’t over.
Amanda’s uterus suffered scarring from the infection, and she may not be able to have more children. She had a surgery recently to fix the scarring, but it’s unclear whether it will be successful.
That leaves the Zurawskis scared – and furious that they might never have a family because of a Texas law.
“[This] didn’t have to happen,” Amanda said. “That’s what’s so infuriating about all of this, is that we didn’t have to – we shouldn’t have had to – go through all of this trauma.”
The Zurawskis say the politicians who voted for the anti-abortion law call themselves “pro-life” – but they don’t see it that way.
“Amanda almost died. That’s not pro-life. Amanda will have challenges in the future having more kids. That’s not pro-life,” Josh said.
“Nothing about [this] feels pro-life,” his wife added.
In many ways, Amanda feels fortunate. She wonders whether she’d be alive today if it weren’t for her husband, who rushed her to the hospital and made sure she got the best care possible. And they have good jobs with good health insurance and they live in a big city with high quality health care.
“All of these things I had going for me, and still, this was the outcome,” she said.
She and Josh worry about women in rural areas, or poor women, or young, single mothers in states like Texas. What would happen to them, considering what happened to Amanda?
“These barbaric laws prevented her from getting any amount of health care when she needed it, until it was at a life-threatening moment,” Josh said.