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Women harmed by abortion restrictions campaign against Trump in Wisconsin

‘We are being denied basic care’

By Baylor Spears, Wisconsin Examiner - April 17, 2024
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Wisconsin abortion ban
Demonstrators protest outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., on May 3, 2022, in response to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Two women, who said their states’ abortion restrictions exacerbated their experience with medical difficulties during pregnancy, told their stories Tuesday while campaigning for President Joe Biden at a round table event in Madison.

Their visit is one of four stops they are making this week in Wisconsin — a battleground state that could play a decisive role in the 2024 presidential election. Democrats are focusing on abortion as an issue that could help drive voters to the polls. The women spoke with Wisconsin leaders including Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski and Senate Minority Leader Dianne Hesselbein, local officials and reproductive rights advocates at the event. 

Amanda Zurawski of Houston, Texas said she underwent “grueling” fertility treatments for a year and a half. She and her husband, Josh were “over the moon” when she finally became pregnant. While her first trimester was pretty easy, she said she suffered from “catastrophic complications” at 18 weeks. She said she needed an abortion, but her state’s abortion ban made it illegal.

“My doctor would have been at risk of losing her license, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fines and even jail time, so I was told to just wait until I got so sick that my life was considered in danger, which is one of the rare exceptions in Texas,” Zurawski said. She waited three days before she developed sepsis — a potentially fatal  condition resulting from infection — and doctors finally provided her care, stabilizing her and ending her pregnancy with the baby she named Willow. She was in the intensive care unit for several days afterwards. 

Zurawski said she realized in her “dark and lonely hospital room” that she was “actually lucky because I lived and I knew others might not be so lucky.” 

“What I went through was nothing short of barbaric and it did not need to happen,” said Zurawski, who was a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against Texas due to its abortion ban. “It was completely avoidable. It was preventable, but it did happen because of Donald Trump.” 

Kaitlyn Joshua of Louisiana, said that she and her husband, Landon, were thrilled to learn that she was pregnant. They already had one daughter, who was 3, and it made sense for them to add to their family.

Early in her pregnancy, Joshua said she started experiencing cramping and spotting, and at 11 weeks, she experienced major blood loss and pain. She sought care at a Baton Rouge emergency room, where she was told she was experiencing a miscarriage, but was provided no support.

“Because of the state’s abortion ban, the health care team was afraid,” Joshua said. “They instead sent me home, sent home on prayers. I remember the young lady said ‘We’ll be praying for you and you’re just gonna have to handle this at home.’” 

Joshua went to a second hospital where she was also told to wait. She said it took her almost a month to complete the miscarriage on her own. 

Women across Louisiana and across the country are having similar experiences, Joshua said.

“Because of abortion bans, physicians simply cannot do their job and practice medicine based on their training expertise,” Joshua said. “We’re simply asking for the most basic level of internal health care but because of Donald Trump’s laws, we are being denied basic care.”

Former President Donald Trump has said in recent weeks that abortion policy should be left to the states, and that he does not support a nationwide ban. He has previously said that he would support a 16-week nationwide ban.

The U.S. has been left with a patchwork of abortion laws with many states having implemented bans due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that eliminated federal abortion protections. 

Abortion services were halted completely in Wisconsin until recently due to an 1849 law that many interpreted as applying to abortion. A Wisconsin judge ruled last year that the law did not apply to abortion, allowing clinics to restart services. The ruling is being appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Joshua said she thought that telling her story could play a role in reelecting Biden and other Democrats down the ballot — something Democrats at the event said would protect abortion access in Wisconsin. 

“We didn’t have abortions available in Wisconsin for a year. Due to a court decision, right now they’re available, but we know how fragile it is, we know that that can change at any time,” state Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) said at the event. “We also know that if Donald Trump is elected that will almost certainly change.” 

Republicans in Wisconsin have attempted to pass several new abortion restrictions since Roe v. Wade was overturned, including a 14-week ban that passed the state Assembly in January. It didn’t receive a vote in the Senate. 

State Democrats have also introduced several bills that would protect  abortion rights under  state law and take Wisconsin back to where it was before Roe v. Wade was overturned, but they haven’t progressed in the Republican-led Legislature.

“That’s why we’re fighting… to move forward and to guarantee that in our state people continue to have access,” Subeck said, adding that national protections are needed, and she doesn’t think it should be a state-by-state decision whether or not women are able to access abortion. 

This story was originally published by the Wisconsin Examiner


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