Five women are suing Texas after the state’s laws prevented them from getting medically necessary abortions. The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Travis County, also includes among the plaintiffs two Texas doctors who say they can no longer provide their patients with necessary care because of the state’s abortion ban.
State Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Texas Medical Board, and its executive director Stephen Brint Carlton were named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with the state of Texas.
The lawsuit is being filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the five women, and it’s seeking that Texas confirm that doctors can perform abortions on pregnant people if they in good faith believe it’s necessary to save their life or protect their health. The Center for Reproductive Rights claims the lawsuit is the first example since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in which people are suing for harm caused by being denied an abortion.
“No one should be forced to wait until they’re at death’s door to receive healthcare,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said during a news conference on Tuesday.
Northup also said that the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which previously granted the right to an abortion nationwide, has “resulted in a healthcare crisis” across the nation.
“It is now dangerous to be pregnant in Texas,” she said. “Doctors and hospitals are turning patients away, even those in medical emergencies. Patients are being denied necessary, life-saving obstetrical care.”
Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Texas has nearly completely banned abortion, and doctors who perform abortions can be sentenced up to life in prison. Texas’s abortion ban makes exceptions if the life of the pregnant person is in jeopardy. Nationwide, many pregnant people have reported doctors who are afraid they will lose their medical license or be put in jail if they perform abortions.
Abortion pills are also at risk of being banned in Texas. In November, an anti-abortion group filed a lawsuit seeking an emergency order to have the FDA remove its approval of mifepristone, a medication that is used to cause an abortion, and would take it off the market at a national level. The federal judge has yet to rule on it.
On Tuesday, the five women spoke in front of the Texas Capitol about the complications with their pregnancies and what it was like to be told they couldn’t receive an abortion despite the threats to their lives.
Amanda Zurawski, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said that at 18 weeks of pregnancy she experienced prelabor rupture of membranes. She said she was denied an abortion in Texas until she was diagnosed with sepsis; she still spent three days in the ICU, and the infection caused one of her fallopian tubes to permanently close, making it more difficult for her to have children in the future.
“I cannot adequately put into words the trauma and despair that comes with waiting to either lose your own life, your child’s life, or both,” Zurawski said. “For days, I was locked in this bizarre and avoidable hell.”
Lauren Hall, another woman listed in the lawsuit, said she was told at 18 weeks pregnant that her baby wouldn’t be able to grow a skull. The doctor told her she could either wait to miscarry or get an abortion outside of Texas, she said, but if she chose abortion, they would not be able to send her records or make a referral for a doctor. Hall ended up flying to Seattle to get an abortion.
“I love Texas, and it kills me that my own state does not seem to care if I live or die,” Hall said.
Northup said the Texas Constitution protects “life, liberty, equality, and the right to be free from sex discrimination.”
“These rights are guaranteed to every Texan and they do not disappear because they are pregnant,” Northup said. “Right now, abortion bans are exposing pregnant people to risks of death, illness, and injury, including the loss of fertility.”
The Texas Medical Board did not immediately return BuzzFeed News’ requests for comment.
“Attorney General Paxton is committed to doing everything in his power to protect mothers, families, and unborn children, and he will continue to defend and enforce the laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature,” Paxton’s press secretary said in an email to BuzzFeed News.