It’s Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, and to Amanda Zurawski, “Abortion Is Healthcare. Plain and Simple.”

Zara Hanawalt • Oct 29, 2023

When we talk about abortion rights in a post-Roe world, we often talk about the importance of reproductive choice. As we should: Giving people, particularly people with uteruses, autonomy over their bodies is absolutely crucial — frankly, it feels dystopian to have to even make that point.

But the need for universal abortion access isn’t always about choice. Sometimes, people who very much want to carry out their pregnancies are abortion patients — and it’s time we include them in the conversation.

Their stories highlight a crucial point: In our post-Roe world, we can’t just fight for reproductive choice. We also have to fight for people like Amanda Zurawski, who also had no choice — albeit for a very different reason. Zurawski spoke to Rescripted to share her story and make one thing very clear: Abortion is healthcare. 

Amanda Zurawski with her dog

Source: Amanda Zurawski 

You may have heard Zurawski’s name — as the lead plaintiff in a case against the state of Texas, she’s become something of a face of the post-Roe movement. But you may not know the story of how she became such a passionate voice in this fight.

After she and her husband went through a year and a half of fertility treatments, Zurawski became pregnant last spring. She was diagnosed with cervical insufficiency at 18 weeks. 

“We lost the baby and we knew we were going to lose her because there was nothing they could do to reverse what had happened,” Zurawski tells Rescripted. “But instead of being able to intervene and induce labor, [it would have been] considered an illegal abortion in Texas because the baby’s heart was still beating. They couldn’t do anything until either her heart stopped or I got really sick and my life was considered in danger — that’s when doctors can intervene in the state of Texas. So what happened to me was, we had to wait and it took three days before I went into septic shock, and at that point they could induce labor.”

The trauma of pregnancy loss is enormous — but when you consider that Zurawski had to weather her loss of a very wanted pregnancy while also advocating for her own life? It’s beyond horrific. That’s to say nothing of the enduring trauma, both physical and emotional.

“There have been periods, especially shortly after…of just crippling depression, just unable to function,” says Zurawski. “Moving forward, we still want kids, and as we plan for that, we now have a whole new layer of stress and anxiety, and family planning is already stress-inducing enough. Now that we’ve had this complication, we had this loss, we know that I’m more likely to [experience the same complication].”

“If I were to get pregnant again, if I were to have preterm labor, nothing in Texas has changed legally,” adds Zurawski. “So who’s to say the exact same thing wouldn’t happen, but what if next time I’m not as lucky? What if next time I die?”

Amanda Zurawski with her husband

Source: The Meteor

There have been significant lingering physical effects as well.

“The scarring from the sepsis was so severe that when they tried to get imaging when we moved forward with IVF, they couldn’t even get an image of my reproductive organs because the scarring was so dense,” says Zurawski. “I had to have a surgery to clear out the scar tissue — my doctor got it out of my uterus, but one of my fallopian tubes is permanently closed now. My uterus had collapsed, so he had to rebuild that surgically.”

For multiple reasons, Zurawski’s doctor has advised her not to carry another pregnancy, so she and her husband are pursuing surrogacy.

This story is a horrifying look at how vulnerable we’ve become after Roe vs. Wade’s overturning. A common argument is that we deserve reproductive choice, but stories like Zurawski’s are proof that we need to make the conversation around both abortion rights and pregnancy loss much more inclusive. Zurawski didn’t choose to have an abortion — but thanks to these laws in the state of Texas, she endured unnecessary trauma while also processing the loss of a pregnancy she desperately wanted. She wasn’t just denied choice, she was also denied potentially life-saving healthcare.

‘Abortion is healthcare. Plain and simple. It is a standard medical procedure — sometimes it’s elective, sometimes it’s not. It doesn’t matter what your reasoning is, anybody should be able to get healthcare whenever they need it,” says Zurawski. “I think what has happened is politicians have stigmatized the word so much that it’s impossible for people to talk about it as though it’s just healthcare, which is what it is. The more we talk about it, the more we use the word, the less stigmatized it becomes. We’re taking back the true meaning. This is just healthcare.”

Be the expert in you.

Take the Quiz

As one of the first people to see up close the horrors that have unfolded — and will continue to unfold — with Roe’s overturning, Zurawski also got a close look at how medical professionals and their ability to do right by their patients are compromised.

Amanda Zurawski speaking about reproductive rights

Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

“My understanding is that it was made very clear to my doctor by her ethics board at the hospital that she could not intervene,” says Zurawski. “The law had just gone into effect so she didn’t know what she could do [and] she had to rely on the ethics board a lot, which was frustrating. It was more so a struggle, I think, when they told her ‘You can’t do anything as long as the baby’s heart is beating’. She was anguished that she couldn’t do anything for me.”

“It was traumatic,” she adds. “Waiting those three days between being told you’re going to lose the baby you desperately wanted to going into septic shock…I was in and out of the hospital and she could just do nothing. It was just unimaginable pain, that waiting period.”

Zurawski has been extremely vocal in telling her story and advocating for others — not just to mobilize others to join the fight, or to destigmatize pregnancy loss, or to prove that abortion is healthcare, but also to show others what they could potentially face in a post-Roe world.

“Yesterday I spoke at an event in Illinois, [which is] a safe state,” she says. “And what I realized is that folks in safe states, that still have abortion access, I think they know this is going on, but I think they still don’t know how bad it is. It almost became like a warning to them. You have your rights now but they can be taken away from you so quickly and here’s what it looks like when they are.”

Zara Hanawalt is a freelance journalist and mom of twins. She's written for outlets like Parents, Marie-Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Motherly, and many others. In her (admittedly limited!) free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling with her family.