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Texas women, including three in Dallas, sue the state over abortion ban

The women argue confusing and conflicting language is preventing them from receiving care, putting their health and lives at risk.

DALLAS — Five Texas women, including three from Dallas, are suing the state, claiming abortion bans have put their health and lives at risk.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the case Monday night. The group argued for Jackson Women’s Health Organization in the case that overturned Roe v. Wade last June and previously failed in its challenge to Senate Bill 8 in Texas, which bans abortion after 6 weeks.

“It is now dangerous to be pregnant in Texas,” Nancy Northup, the group’s CEO, said in a press conference at the state capitol Tuesday. “The is the first lawsuit of its kind. “It is the first lawsuit in which individual women have sued a state for the harm that they endured because abortion has been criminalized in the wake of Roe’s reversal.”

The lawsuit isn’t trying to overturn the state’s ban, which does allow abortion to save the life of a pregnant person. Instead, it wants courts to clarify what that means and add an exception to allow abortions when fetuses aren’t likely to survive.

One of the women in the case, 35-year-old Lauren Miller of Dallas, learned she was pregnant in July 2022 and a few weeks later learned she was expecting twins.  

“Every night before bed, my husband gave my belly two kisses,” she recounted during Tuesday’s press conference.

At 12 weeks, though, she learned one of the fetuses would not survive and could harm both her and the other fetus, so she traveled to Colorado for an abortion, spending thousands of dollars for the sudden trip.

Texas’ abortion ban can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for doctors and up to life in prison. The suit points out that terms like “risk”, “serious risk” and “major bodily function” aren’t properly defined, leading doctors and medical providers to take caution and entirely avoid abortions.

“As my medical providers tried to counsel me on my options, they stopped midsentence looking for the words. It’s like they were afraid they’d be arrested just for saying the word abortion out loud,” she said. “I just wanted to curl up and cry and mourn, but I couldn’t because we had to scramble to make plans to travel out of state for an abortion.”

Rebecca Parma, the legislative director at Texas Right to Life, said the laws are written fine and the issue is medical groups not properly interpreting them.

“Those are heartbreaking situations, of course, and our view is that those are problems with implementation, not the law,” Parma said. “I think if there’s any lack of clarification it’s because doctors and medical groups are choosing not to interpret the law as they’ve been doing long before any of our strong pro-life laws took effect.”

“Contrary to their stated purpose of furthering life, the bans are exposing pregnant people to risks of death, injury, and illness, including loss of fertility — making it less likely that every family who wants to bring children into the world will be able to do so and survive the experience,” the suit reads.

The other Dallas women in the suit include 28-year-old Lauren Hall. She and her husband had started sharing their pregnancy with friends, buying baby gifts and picked the name "Amelia" when they went in for a 20-week check-up to learn their fetus was developing without a skull and would not survive.

With Colorado and New Mexico clinic overwhelmed, they were forced to travel to Seattle for an abortion.

“The words she used ‘incompatible with life’ kept echoing in my mind,” Hall said at the press conference Tuesday. “Providers are terrified to treat cases like mine.”

Ashley Brandt, 31, is also from Dallas and was expecting twins when one of the fetuses was also not developing a skull. A doctor told her an abortion of twin A would save twin B and herself. They had to travel out of state for an abortion and, afraid of documenting the case, her doctor listed it only as “vanishing twin syndrome.”

Lethal fetal anomalies aren’t exempt from Texas’ ban, but that’s a change the lawsuit hopes to make.

“Our law is really clear that that is not allowed,” Parma said. “We want to protect all pre-born children in the womb including those threatening disability.”

Lawmakers have already filed several bills to add the exception and others for rape and incest, but Republican lawmakers who control the state legislature have shown little interest in advancing the measures in the past.

Other women in the suit include Amanda Zurawski, who was forced to wait until she was septic to receive abortion care, permanently closing her fallopian tubes. Anna Zargarian, who flew across multiple states after her water broke for treatment, worried she’d go into labor or septic shock.

“After I had just finished the invite list for the baby shower my sister was planning for me, everything changed," Zurawski said. "I cannot adequately put into words, the trauma and despair than comes with waiting to either lose your own’s life, your child’s life or both.”

In a statement Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris said, “The lawsuit includes devastating, first-hand accounts of women’s lives almost lost after they were denied the health care they needed, because of extreme efforts by Republican officials to control women’s bodies.”

A review by Texas Health and Human Services found 90% of pregnancy-related deaths in the state were preventable and that Black women were disproportionately impacted.

“We don’t want women and their children unnecessarily harmed,” Parma said. “These stories that we’re hearing in the news and this lawsuit are concerning because we don’t want women to not receive the treatment that they need.”

Parma said Texas Right to Life is already working with lawmakers to make clarifications at the legislative level.

Lauren Miller is due this month with her surviving twin and said Tuesday she was lucky to have the means to get care, blaming lawmakers for inaction.

“We just felt completely lost like we were in a dark room looking for a door,” Miller said. “They could do something but they’re not and it’s killing us.”

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