Texas Woman Nearly Loses Her Life After Doctors Can't Legally Perform an Abortion: 'Their Hands Were Tied'

"I never in my wildest dreams thought that the laws I was so angry about would pose a threat to my life and prevent me from accessing safe healthcare in 2022 in the United States of America," says Amanda Zurawski

Amanda Zurawski for Meteor.com
Photo: The Meteor

Amanda Zurawski was 18 weeks pregnant and out walking near her home in Austin, Texas, when she felt abnormal discharge and "what felt like water running down my leg."

She made an appointment with her doctor, but wasn't too worried. "I was fairly certain that I'd be told this is normal," Amanda tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I fully expected them to send me home and all would be fine."

But it turned out that her doctor had difficult news: Amanda had an incompetent cervix and had dilated too early. She was told that miscarriage was inevitable. "That was horrific," she says of that day in August. "I crumbled."

It was devastating for Amanda, 35, and her husband Josh, 35, who had been through 18 months of fertility treatments before they were able to conceive their baby girl.

Unfortunately the couple would be going through more pain in the days ahead. The near-total ban on abortion in Texas meant that the doctors couldn't do anything to remove the unviable fetus unless Amanda's life was at risk. She would either have to get sick enough for doctors to intervene, or miscarry on her own. And Amanda and Josh had no way of knowing how long they'd have to suffer.

"It could be days, it could be weeks. And knowing that we just had to live with that, it was incapacitating," Amanda says. "I was unable to function. I didn't work, I didn't eat, I didn't sleep. I was left wanting to either get so sick that I almost died or, praying for my baby's heart to stop beating — this baby that I had wanted and worked to have for 18 months," she says through tears.

"Every time they did an ultrasound, to be hoping to hear her heartbeat, but at the same time, to not hear her heartbeat… it's the most anguishing feeling."

Because doctors weren't able to perform an abortion, Amanda was at risk for infection. She became sick with sepsis, a life-threatening condition. By the time she went to the hospital 3 days later to deliver her baby, she was feverish and weak. "She's the toughest person I know in the world, and for her to start crumbling before me, I knew there was something serious going on," Josh says.

She was having trouble walking on her own at the hospital and "was not really coherent," Josh recalls. "She didn't really understand what was going on." After the delivery she was sent straight to the ICU. "That was the scariest thing I've ever gone through in my life — seeing Amanda on what could have been her deathbed."

Although Amanda didn't realize how ill she was at the time — friends and family were rushing to her bedside, fearing she would die — she has since been processing what happened to her.

"It took three days at home until I became sick 'enough' that the ethics board at our hospital agreed we could 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," she writes in a first-person essay for The Meteor, a media company committed to storytelling around issues of gender equity.

"It was just so frustrating to be dealing with something so traumatic, and then just gamble with the outcome of Amanda's life unnecessarily," says Josh.

The couple is now sharing their emotional story as part of a video series in which three obstetrician-gynecologists travel the country to help share the harm unfolding under abortion bans.

"We asked all of our doctors and our nurses, isn't there something you can do, and they said no," Amanda says in the video. "I couldn't make the decision for myself, we couldn't make the decision for our daughter, our doctors couldn't make the decision. They were just as furious as we were because their hands were tied. Had they acted, they would have been charged with a felony."

Amanda Zurawski for Meteor.com
Courtesy of Amanda and Josh Zurawski

It's hard for the couple to believe how they have been impacted by this. "When the Texas law got passed and then when Roe v. Wade was overturned, of course I was furious and I didn't agree with it," says Amanda. But I didn't think it would really impact me personally. I never in my wildest dreams thought that the laws that I was so angry about would also pose a threat to my life and prevent me from accessing safe healthcare in 2022 in the United States of America."

Now they have seen firsthand how these laws have unintended effects: blocking not just abortion, but safe access to health care.

"Josh and I are very fortunate that we have great health insurance," says Amanda. "We live in a big city, we live close to a hospital, We have wonderful healthcare team family, family. I mean, we truly are the best-case scenario. And look what happened." She knows that many others will not be as fortunate.

Amanda continues to face long-term implications from the bacterial infection and is undergoing surgery next week. "The scar tissue in my uterus is so severe that they have to go in to surgically remove it," she says. "And that is a result of the infection that I developed because I had to wait three days to get healthcare."

She continues: "We don't know the extent of that damage. We don't know if I'm permanently damaged to the point that I can't carry children, that my eggs are harmed."

Still, the couple, who both work in the tech industry, remain hopeful.

"We will be parents one way or another," says Amanda, adding that they named their late daughter Willow after the tree known for its strength. "I don't know what that's going to look like and I don't know how we're going to get there, but we will be parents someday."

Related Articles