In February, Taylor Edwards and her husband went to the hospital to get an anatomy scan of her fetus during her 18th week of pregnancy. The couple had tried desperately to become pregnant and were eventually able to with the help of IVF. But that day in February, they learned their unborn daughter had a fatal condition called encephalocele and would die at or before birth. Even though the pregnancy was no longer viable and now posed a threat to her life, Edwards was unable to get the emergency abortion she needed due to the state’s abortion bans, as she wasn’t imminently dying and her fetus still had a heartbeat. She was eventually forced to travel to Colorado for an abortion, as she was getting sicker by the day.
Edwards is now one of 13 Texas women who are plaintiffs in Zurawski v. State of Texas, a landmark case that seeks to clarify a dangerously confusing exception to the state’s abortion laws. These 13 plaintiffs say they almost died or were severely harmed from life-threatening pregnancy-related complications, and were still unable to get emergency abortion care even though the state’s abortion bans include a hypothetical exception for such cases. Testimony began on Wednesday—with one plaintiff vomiting from distress while testifying on the stand about her experience—as the women seek an injunction to temporarily block the abortion ban and the state of Texas tries to have the suit dismissed altogether.
In a series of powerful testimonies, the women impacted by the bans spoke at length about how they’re challenging the laws’ dangerous language, in some cases, because they’re already parents who want to be able to stay healthy—and alive—for their kids. Or, like Edwards, they’re still trying to become parents, and want to be safe living in the state if they become pregnant.
Since her abortion, Edwards told Jezebel in a phone interview that she and her husband are still trying to get pregnant; she just recently started her first IVF cycle since her abortion when we spoke on Wednesday. “When I got the news that I was all clear to start IVF again, I had a moment of, ‘Oh my God, I’m not going to do this’—because I’m just so scared of being pregnant again. But I want to be a mom and that outweighs that, just in the slightest,” she said. “I have to do this, even though I’m absolutely terrified. My husband’s absolutely terrified.” She said she joined the suit to prevent this from happening to other women “and potentially even myself in the future.”
Another plaintiff, Dr. Austin Dennard, an OBGYN who joined the lawsuit in May and is the doctor of one of the other plaintiffs, also testified about her experience on Thursday, saying that she needed an emergency abortion when she was 11 weeks pregnant and her fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, a rare genetic condition incompatible with survival. “The mother in me was hoping that the physician in me was second-guessing what I saw,” Dennard said through tears, recounting the moment in July 2022 when she saw the scan of her pregnancy and realized “something was catastrophically wrong.”
Dennard, a mother of two who is currently pregnant, previously had an abortion in Texas when her fetus was diagnosed with a different fatal condition prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This time, she had to travel out of state for care. Dennard testified that it was consideration for her two young children that made her especially certain she couldn’t continue with a nonviable pregnancy that put her life at risk, rendering her vulnerable to fatal infections and other life-threatening conditions: “My health and staying healthy so I can be their mother, be a wife, be a physician, and take care of my patients, was my number one priority.” She explained that she didn’t initially sign on to join the suit, brought forth in March, out of fear of violent threats and retaliation her family might face, given the climate of rising anti-abortion violence.
On Wednesday, the court heard testimony from another plaintiff, Amanda Zurawski, who testified that, like Edwards, she, too, still wants kids. But last year, after experiencing severe pregnancy complications and a prolonged delay in receiving emergency care due to Texas’ abortion bans, her right fallopian tube permanently closed, jeopardizing her fertility. In a particularly dark move, the state of Texas has cited the women’s fertility struggles as one of its arguments to have the suit dismissed, suggesting the women don’t have standing because it’s not certain they’ll become pregnant and experience complications again. Zurawski responded to this in court on Wednesday, calling this framing “infuriating” and “ironic,” and adding, “Do they not realize the reason why I might not be able to get pregnant again is because of what happened to me as a result of the laws that they support?”
Edwards called the state’s response to their suit “incredibly reductive.” “We’ve been through a lot of trauma and pain, and while some of that would have happened either way given our diagnoses, the addition of having to travel or being denied health care—it’s even more emotional torture than you already were feeling in that scenario,” she told Jezebel. “These laws are subjecting us to just a lot of things you shouldn’t have to feel when you’re just being a grieving parent.”
A judge is expected to rule on the case in the coming weeks.