When we heard about Amanda Zurawski’s case specifically, my organization consulted with six well-informed doctors in this area of medicine. When Zurawski was in her 18th week, well before viability, she suffered from a rare but severe condition known as preterm premature rupture of membranes, or PPROM. In other words, her water broke. Because the unborn baby was so young, there was little chance for her baby to survive. Without intervention, Zurawski’s life was in danger from infection. All six doctors said the standard of care is to induce labor with the intent to save the mother’s life, knowing that, sadly, the unborn child would not survive, and to do so without waiting until the woman’s death is imminent or for the baby’s heart to stop beating. All confirmed this is permitted under Texas law.
Unfortunately, that is not what her physician did. Her doctor waited until Ms. Zurawski developed sepsis before providing the appropriate treatment. Tragically, she lost her baby, and she almost lost her life. But that had nothing to do with Texas law. It is a dangerous lie that lifesaving care is not permitted under Texas pro-life laws. The language of the life of the mother exception in Texas law is clear: no woman with a life-threatening pregnancy should be required to wait before receiving treatment from her physician.
Much misinformation and confusion have been widely perpetuated regarding the life of the mother exception within Texas pro-life laws. However, Texas’ laws are carefully crafted to allow doctors to promptly treat women with life-threatening conditions without the risk of criminal or civil liability. The exception language in our more recent laws is the same language put into law in 2013 to protect unborn babies from abortion beginning at 20 weeks. No physician has been prosecuted for performing abortions to save the mother’s life under that law.