Women share horror stories caused by red state abortion bans

Kaitlyn Joshua of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Amanda Zurawski of Austin, Texas speaking at a press conference hosted by the Biden campaign on Wednesday April 10, 2024 in Charlotte.

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By Dylan Rhoney

April 11, 2024

In a visit to Charlotte, two women from Republican-led states opened up about traumatic experiences caused by the kind of extreme abortion bans that could soon become NC’s reality.

What’s it like to be pregnant in a red state with extreme abortion bans on the books?

On Wednesday, Kaitlyn Joshua of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Amanda Zurawski of Austin, Texas, visited North Carolina to share their horror stories in trying to access abortion care in states with extreme restrictions.

The two women participated in roundtables and press conferences with local elected officials and healthcare professionals in Durham, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte, where they shared their experience with local media on behalf of President Biden’s re-election campaign.

The women’s message comes as fears of a total abortion ban linger in North Carolina, where Republicans banned most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy last year, and where Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson has previously endorsed a full ban, without exceptions.

In Louisiana, where Joshua lives, abortion is completely illegal with limited exceptions for protecting the mother’s life or physical health, or if the fetus is not expected to live outside of the womb.

 

‘I was losing so much blood’

Joshua and her husband, Landon, had decided to grow their family, and were excited when they learned she was pregnant with their second child.

“We thought it was the perfect time to add an addition to the family,” she said.

But her pregnancy was difficult from the beginning.

“Early on, unlike during my first pregnancy, I experienced mild cramping and spotting.”

Joshua recalled her first visit to the hospital when she started bleeding.

“I started experiencing major blood loss and pain…The medical team evaluated me and told me that my fetus had stopped growing,” she explained in Charlotte. “I realized I was having a miscarriage, but because of the state’s abortion ban, the healthcare team was afraid to tell me what was happening. They sent me home with prayers.”

Joshua said that the next day, she went to a different hospital, but the result was the same.

“I was losing so much blood, the security guard actually put me in a wheelchair,” Joshua recalled.

Despite the clear physical pain and trauma she was enduring, the hospital would not provide the appropriate medical treatment.

“The standard treatment for miscarriage, what I was experiencing in that moment, is exactly the same as abortion care. Yet, in the second hospital, the staff told me we were not doing that in this moment. They told me to go home and wait. Ultimately, it took me weeks to pass that pregnancy at home. I was terrified,” she said.

 

‘They weren’t sure I was going to make it’

Zurawski’s experience in Texas was also extremely traumatizing—and could have cost her her life.

Texas has similar restrictions to Louisiana. Abortion is illegal in most cases, including for rape and incest. State law vaguely allows for abortions in cases where the life of the mother is at risk, but in reality, it’s an extremely difficult exception to access.

“We [she and her husband Josh] were absolutely over the moon. I had undergone grueling fertility treatment for about a year and a half,” Zurawski said in Charlotte.

Despite the first trimester of the pregnancy going by without complications, Zurawski says she experienced serious complications at the 18th week that meant her baby would not survive.

“My cervix had dilated prematurely, and because my membranes had ruptured, there was no way to safely reverse course. We were told that with 100% certainty, we were going to lose our baby,” she said.

Texas’ extreme abortion law had taken effect just two days prior to her water breaking.

“What I needed at that point was an abortion, so I could safely, and with dignity, deliver my daughter, and begin the healing process, both physically and emotionally. But unfortunately, this was post-Roe Texas,” Zurawski explained.

Getting treatment would prove difficult, and her symptoms would have to become life-threatening before doctors would intervene.

“We were told that I just had to wait, until I got so sick that my life was considered in danger, which is one of the rare exceptions where a doctor can intervene in the state of Texas,” she said.

“It took three days, and a near-death crash into septic shock, before my doctor could finally provide the healthcare that I needed,” she recalled. “After stabilizing my vitals enough to deliver our baby we named Willow, I crashed again with another bout of sepsis, and was transferred to the ICU. I was there for three days. My family flew in from across the country, because they weren’t sure I was going to make it.”

 

Could North Carolina’s future look like that?

North Carolina law currently allows for abortions without exception up to 12 weeks and 6 days, up to 20 weeks in cases of rape or incest, and until 24 weeks if there is a fetal anomaly. There is no limit in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.

But the experiences Joshua and Zurawski endured could serve as a preview for abortion access in the Tar Heel State in the event Mark Robinson is elected governor or if Donald Trump returns to the White House.

Robinson has repeatedly expressed his desire to ban abortion at the state level in North Carolina. In February, he said in Greenville, “We’ve got to do it that same way they rolled it forward, we’ve got to do it the same way with rolling it back. We’ve got it down to 12 weeks. The next goal is to get it down to six, and then just keep moving from there.”

Trump, meanwhile, appointed three justices to the US Supreme Court who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, allowing states like Texas and Louisiana—and potentially North Carolina in the future—to enact extreme abortion bans.

In sharing their stories, Zurawski and Joshua hoped to make clear the horrifying consequences of these bans.“What I went through was nothing short of barbaric, and it did not need to happen. But it did because of Donald Trump. Over and over again, Donald Trump brags about killing Roe v. Wade, and it is unthinkable to me that anyone could cheer on the cruel abortion bans that nearly killed me,” Zurawski said. “But he does.”

Author

  • Dylan Rhoney

    Dylan Rhoney is an App State grad from Morganton who is passionate about travel, politics, history, and all things North Carolina. He lives in Raleigh.

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