President Joe Biden speaks about abortion rights

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Democratic National Committee event on protecting abortion rights at Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. on October 18, 2022. (Photo: Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Texas Woman's Near-Death Experience Is What GOP 'Hopes to See Nationwide'

"It's this simple: If anti-choice Republicans win control of Congress, they will pass a national ban on abortion," said one advocate.

Progressives on Wednesday warned that one Texas woman's harrowing near-death experience after she had a complication when she was 18 weeks pregnant encompasses the Republican Party's vision for women across the U.S., as the party pledges to pass a 15-week nationwide abortion ban if they win control of Congress in November.

The advocacy group Obstetricians for Reproductive Justice (ORJ) began traveling the country in September to meet people who have been personally impacted by abortion bans that have now been passed in at least 13 states following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade in June.

One of the people they spoke to, Amanda Zurawski of Austin, told the doctors about the serious pregnancy complication she suffered just weeks earlier in August, after which her physician explained the only options available to her: waiting to go into labor naturally and delivering a stillborn baby or a child who would die soon after birth, waiting for her baby's heartbeat to stop and then having an abortion, or developing an infection severe enough to put her life in peril--which would allow doctors to end her pregnancy.

"Not until one of those things happened would a single medical professional in the state of Texas legally be allowed to act," wrote Zurawski in an essay at The Meteor on Tuesday. "It was a waiting game, the most horrific version of a staring contest: Whose life would end first? Mine, or my daughter's?

As Drs. Jenn Conti, Heather Irobunda, and Jennifer Lincoln of ORJ toldThe Meteor, Zurawski suffered from cervical insufficiency, meaning her cervix dilated months before her pregnancy reached term. Her amniotic sac then ruptured, putting her at risk for sepsis, which can rapidly become life-threatening.

"The longer that person remains pregnant, number one, it increases the risk of bad outcomes in terms of things like infection, sepsis, bleeding, and hemorrhage," said Irobunda. "But it also does a lot mentally to that patient and the family, just knowing that this pregnancy is a miscarriage and that it is not going to end well. We need to minimize the suffering of those involved. It's not right."

In states where abortion remains legal, Irobunda said, doctors would have used medication to induce a miscarriage in a hospital or performed a dilation and evacuation. But with Texas banning abortion care at any stage of pregnancy, making a vague exception for only an unspecified "medical emergency," the ethics board at the hospital where Zurawski was would not allow doctors to end the pregnancy until her conditioned worsened over three days:

It took three days at home until I became sick "enough" that the ethics board at our hospital agreed we could legally begin medical treatment; three days until my life was considered at-risk "enough" for the inevitable premature delivery of my daughter to be performed; three days until the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals were allowed to do their jobs.

By the time I was permitted to deliver, a rapidly spreading infection had already claimed my daughter's life and was in the process of claiming mine.

I developed a raging fever and dangerously low blood pressure and was rushed to the ICU with sepsis. Tests found both my blood and my placenta teeming with bacteria that had multiplied, probably as a result of the wait. I would stay in the ICU for three more days as medical professionals battled to save my life.

Zurawski's story--just the latest account of a pregnant person who was denied critical healthcare due to abortion bans--is "what the Republican Party hopes to see nationwide," said New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie.

Zurawski's life-threatening experience took place exactly three weeks before Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced his proposal for a federal ban on abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy at a press conference where he dismissed a woman's question about pregnancies in which complications develop after 15 weeks, as they did in Zurawski's case.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden warned in a speech that "if Republicans get their way with a national ban, it won't matter where you live in America," adding that if Democrats maintain control of the U.S. House and Senate, "the first bill that I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade."

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted, Democrats need to gain two seats in the Senate and maintain control of the House to eliminate the filibuster and pass the legislation.

Recent polls show that Democrats' chances of maintaining control of Congress are narrowing, and they are unlikely to win a majority that would allow them to pass the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would codify Roe, without reforming the filibuster.

Biden did not mention the filibuster, which requires at least 60 votes to pass legislation instead of a simple majority, in his speech Tuesday, but progressive organizer Kai Newkirk suggested the Democrats would reform the legislative maneuver to allow the passage of the WHPA.

"It's this simple: If anti-choice Republicans win control of Congress, they will pass a national ban on abortion," said Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "If Democrats win, they will defend Roe and the president will sign the Women's Health Protection Act. Extremist GOP lawmakers are the number one threat to our reproductive freedom, and they aim to take us back in time."

In addition to banning abortion care across the country--a move that one analysis showed could increase the United States' maternal mortality rate by 24%--Republicans have been explicit about their plans to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits, block any funding related to the coronavirus pandemic, and push for a permanent extension of Trump-era tax cuts, the majority of which went to the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

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