Why it’s urgent that we fight for reproductive rights in Europe

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

On this International Women’s Day, we the citizens of Europe have a chance to let our voices be heard. We demand the protection of women’s rights today and into the future, Nika Kovač writes.


Marta, Anna, Jusyna, Beata, Iza, Joanna, Izabela, Alicija, Dorota. These are just some of the names of women who have died in Poland due to an almost total ban on abortion. 

This ban has a devastating impact on many women and their families. And yet, Poland was one of the first European countries to introduce legal rights to abortion back in 1932.

This striking turnaround didn’t happen overnight. It happened gradually, starting in the 1990s, and by 2020 an almost total ban was passed by the Constitutional Court in a decision that is generally perceived as politically motivated and is in discord with the majority of Polish people who support abortion in all or most circumstances.

It shows how quickly reproductive rights can be threatened, and that every generation needs to fight for them all over again.

Around the world, women’s control of their bodies is being undermined. The decision by the US Supreme Court in June 2022 to overturn the rights afforded women by Roe vs Wade was a seismic shift but elsewhere, away from the glare of publicity, reproductive rights are threatened by attacks that are more subtle – but just as insidious.

The UK has seen a sharp increase in prosecutions of women for suspected illegal abortions, with as many women convicted in the 18 months to February as in the previous 55 years.

While countries such as Poland have taken legislative and other steps to significantly reduce women’s rights, a number of others still regulate abortion primarily through their penal or criminal codes. 

This prioritises rules around what can and can’t be done legally, potentially putting women and those who assist them, at risk of committing criminal offences, rather than treating abortion like all other medical services, which are focused on meeting an individual’s healthcare needs.

Many EU countries restrict access through economic and practical hurdles, including highly restrictive timeframes to access abortion, obligatory non-medical steps such as counselling and waiting times, and financial requirements, eg excluding abortion from insurance and free healthcare provision. 

After Roe v Wade was overturned, the European Parliament reacted to the situation by MEPs passing a resolution in 2022 calling for the European Council to enshrine “the right to safe and legal abortion” in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

But this resolution and other statements by visible EU functionaries didn’t lead to much concrete action.

We’re putting women’s lives at risk

Abortion laws in Poland and Malta remain the strictest, in addition, many countries still have provisions in place that make access for women very difficult. 

Germany and Belgium, for example, require medically unnecessary procedures, such as counselling and a waiting period, before abortion can be accessed. 

In Italy, women struggle to find doctors willing to carry out abortions due to laws that provide for a “conscientious objector” status, which has been adopted by around two-thirds of doctors. 

In Spain, where conscientious objection among physicians is also high in some regions, women are often forced to travel long distances in search of a doctor who will carry out the procedure they need. 

Although abortion is possible within the first three months of pregnancy in Austria, it is not covered by health insurance, leaving women to cover the €300 to €1,000 themselves.

These provisions disproportionately disadvantage women with limited resources, and those in difficult circumstances, for example, young women or people with pre-existing or pregnancy-related illnesses.

Needless to say, this situation causes needless suffering and is putting women’s health, and lives, at risk.


Things might get worse post-European elections

Abortion and reproductive rights have rarely been high up the agenda of the EU and the EU elections. 

However, it seems that might change in the run-up to the European ballot in June this year. 

Current projections indicate a surge in strength for the far-right which often has anti-abortion positions in their agenda, building on recent electoral wins in the Netherlands, Italy, Finland and Sweden.

On the other hand, recent successes, such as the vote in France to enshrine women’s right to an abortion in the Constitution, are positive.

The stark reality is that well-funded internationally connected neoconservative actors that take their steps from the same playbook are trying to erode existing rights all across Europe. 


Recent polling shows that the majority of EU citizens support access to abortion for women in all or most situations, but this is not enough on its own to ensure those rights are protected.

All of this has brought activists together from across the EU to launch the My Voice, My Choice European Citizens’ Initiative, or ECI. 

An EU mechanism could be the solution

An ECI allows any citizens in the EU to gather signatures in support of a cause, and to put their proposal to the European Commission for consideration. 

To qualify, initiatives must be supported by 1 million or more people from at least seven EU countries within the specified timeframe. It is the only mechanism by which EU citizens can call on the European Commission to propose new legislation.

My Voice, My Choice is a grassroots coalition for reproductive rights, bringing together committed individuals and organisations to argue for action to be taken to turn support for abortion rights into reality for all women in the EU. 


We are proposing the creation of a fund that will support member states in providing safe and accessible abortion care to all who need it in accordance with their laws. 

The fund will support the creation of safe and accessible abortion services in areas where this is needed and also enable women in need of abortion services to travel across EU borders if necessary. 

We are waiting for the European Commission to register our initiative so that we can start collecting signatures.

Citizens of Europe have a chance to speak up

The campaign is rooted in the belief that every woman should have the right to make informed decisions about her body without facing unnecessary barriers or endangering her health and well-being, based on the understanding that the right to choose is a common value. 

It is the absence of a ban; it is neither an instruction nor a guideline. It is only an option that is given to every woman. 


It is a fundamental principle of public health that does not differentiate between individuals. It’s an open space where a woman is free to decide so that in the end she can say: “This was my decision.”

The My Voice, My Choice overall goal is to safeguard and advance abortion rights across Europe, ensuring that all women have access to the safe, respectful, and legal healthcare services they deserve. 

We cannot take the right to safe access to abortion for granted. That is why our message on this year’s International Women’s Day is that we the citizens of Europe have a chance to speak up, to let our voices be heard and that we demand the protection of women’s rights today and into the future.

Nika Kovač is the founding director of the 8th of March Research Institute, a movement-building organization that uses storytelling and advocacy to confront gender and economic inequalities.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.


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What is the historic amendment that enshrined abortion access in France’s Constitution? | Explained

The story so far: The French Parliament on March 4 overwhelmingly approved a bill to enshrine abortion as a constitutional right at a historic joint session at the Palace of Versailles. With this, it has become the only country to explicitly guarantee a woman’s right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy.

During the extraordinary voting session, out of the 902 legislators, 780 voted in favour of the bill, 72 voted against it and 50 abstained. The measure was promised by President Emmanuel Macron following a rollback of abortion rights in the United States in recent times, especially the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 50-year-old ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Abortion, although legal in France since 1975, will now be a “guaranteed freedom” for women. The amendment had already been passed by the National Assembly in January and by the Senate last week. However, final approval by parliamentarians at a joint session was needed to effect constitutional change.

In the lead-up to the historic vote, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal paid tribute to Simone Veil, a prominent legislator and feminist who in 1975 championed the bill that decriminalised abortion in France. “It takes one generation, one year, one week for things to change drastically,” he cautioned in his opening speech.

The law will now be authenticated by a “seal of congress” and sent to the government. In a symbolic gesture, Mr. Macron will attend a ceremony to finalise the constitutional amendment on March 8, International Women’s Day.

What does the constitutional reform say?

The Bill, introduced last year, amended the 17th paragraph of Article 34 of the French constitution. The amendment stipulates that “the law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy, which is guaranteed.” This means that future governments will not be able to drastically modify existing laws which permit termination up to 14 weeks.

Indicating how abortion rights have come under the scanner in many countries across Europe, the introduction to the legislation states, “Unfortunately, this event is not isolated: in many countries, even in Europe, there are currents of opinion that seek to hinder at any cost the freedom of women to terminate their pregnancy if they wish.”

Although rare, amending the constitution is not without precedent in France. The French Constitution has been modified over 17 times since it was adopted in 1958. The last instance was in 2008 when the Parliament was awarded more powers and presidential tenure was limited to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms in office.

France is the only country to currently have such a specification pertaining to abortion, although former Communist-run Yugoslavia’s 1974 constitution said that “a person is free to decide on having children” and that such a right can only be limited “for the reasons of health protection.” After its disintegration in the early 1990s, several Balkan states adopted similar measures without an explicit constitutional guarantee. For instance, Serbia’s constitution in less specific terms states that “everyone has the right to decide on childbirth.”

However, some argue that abortion was already constitutionally protected following a 2001 ruling in which France’s constitutional council based its approval of abortion on the notion of liberty enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, which is technically a part of the Constitution.

How has it been received?

Unlike in the United States, the issue of abortion is not highly divisive across the political spectrum in France. Most French people believe that abortion is a woman’s right and an essential public health service. A poll conducted by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) in 2022 showed 81% of respondents were in favour of enshrining the right to have an abortion in the Constitution. According to government figures, 234,000 abortions were carried out in France in 2022.

The right to abortion has not faced any significant challenges from political parties in France, including conservatives and the far-right National Rally party. While some right-wing senators from the Républicains party voted against a first attempt to change the Constitution in October 2022, the stance of major political parties has generally aligned with that of the French public. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, told Reuters earlier that the move was unnecessary and a political gimmick, although her party would not vote against it.

The Vatican and the French Conference of Bishops have, however, opposed the amendment and so have other anti-abortion groups such as the Association of Catholic Families. Critics have also warned that the move is a conscious effort by Mr. Macron to appeal to left-leaning figures in his Renaissance party after controversial pension and immigration reforms.

What is the status in other European countries?

Abortion is currently accessible in more than 40 European nations, but some countries are seeing increased efforts to limit access to the procedure. In September last year, Hungary’s far-right government made it obligatory for women to listen to the pulse of the fetus, sometimes called the “foetal heartbeat,” before they can access a safe abortion.

Poland, which has some of the most stringent abortion laws in Europe, allows termination only in the event of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health or life. Restrictions were further tightened in 2020 when the country’s top court ruled that abortions on the grounds of foetal defects were unconstitutional.

The United Kingdom permits abortion to 24 weeks of pregnancy, if it is approved by two doctors. Delayed abortions are allowed only if there exists a danger to the mother’s life. However, women who undergo abortions after 24 weeks can be prosecuted under the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861.

Also Read:How many countries allow abortion on request, where is abortion completely prohibited, and more

Italy resisted Vatican pressure and legalised abortion in 1978 by allowing women to terminate pregnancies up to 12 weeks or later if their health or life was endangered. However, the law allows medical practitioners to register as “conscientious objectors,” thereby making access to the procedure extremely difficult.

The French initiative could however embolden efforts to add abortion to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

What do experts have to say?

“It’s not stating reproductive choices or the right to have children; it’s a very different language when you say access to abortion,” Anna Sledzinska-Simon, a law professor at the University of Wroclaw in Poland told The New York Times. “The French are calling it by its name — that’s crucial,” she added, highlighting the significance of the move.

However, Mathilde Philip-Gay, a law professor and a specialist in French and American constitutional law warned against easing pressure on legislators to safeguard women’s rights in the wake of far-right parties gaining political influence around the world.

“It may not be an issue in France, where a majority of people support abortion,” she told the Associated Press. “But those same people may one day vote for a far-right government, and what happened in the U.S. can happen elsewhere in Europe, including in France.”

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Germany wants pro-life activists to stay away from abortion clinics

As the number of pro-life vigils in front of Germany’s family planning centres and clinics grows, the country is trying to prevent these places from becoming the stage of a US-style war for abortion rights.


It was March 2017 when Claudia Hohmann, director of the Pro Familia family planning centre in Frankfurt, saw anti-abortion demonstrators show up with signs and flyers outside the door of her workplace for the very first time.

“The pro-life movement calls them vigils, as their purpose is to prevent people from having abortions and ‘save’ children,” she told Euronews. “Since then, the vigils in front of our centre take place twice a year for forty days.”

The Pro Familia centre headed by for the past nine years Hohmann sits in a quiet, wealthy area of west Frankfurt, near the city’s botanical garden. Photos of the most recent vigil held in front of the centre in September shows a pro-life group holding pictures of foetuses and the Virgin Mary, an odd sight in the peaceful neighbourhood.

While anti-abortion demonstrations are common in the US, in recent years vigils like the one held by the Euro Pro Life association in Frankfurt for 40 days in October and November last year, have become more common across Europe and in Germany.

That’s why on 24 January, Germany’s family minister Lisa Paus announced a draft law that would prevent anti-abortion demonstrators from approaching or harassing visitors within a 100-miles radius of abortion clinics and family planning centres in the country.

Anti-abortion flyers and posters will also be forbidden within the same distance of these institutions. Anyone found in violation of this law, if passed, could be punished with a fine of up to €5,000.

Paus, a member of the Green Party, said that the legislation was necessary to avoid women being faced with “hatred and agitation” while seeking advice during a potentially delicate and difficult moment. She told German broadcaster ZDF that the draft struck a balance between freedom of expression and the right of assembly.

The growing influence of the pro-life movement in Europe

While a small group of demonstrators standing in front of a family planning centre for 40 days might seem like a small problem, especially for a country as big as Germany, Hohmann said that the influence of anti-abortion organisations is growing in the country.

“​​The anti-abortion scene is very active and connected with extreme right politics and the anti-queer and anti-sex-education movement,” Hohmann said. “[In recent years] we had vigils taking place in Wiesbaden, Pforzheim and Munich, 1000-Cross-Marches in Berlin and other cities, as well as demonstrations of so-called ‘worried parents’.”

The idea of holding a demonstration for 40 days, which is what Germany’s anti-abortion association Euro Pro-Life has been doing for years in Frankfurt now, is not really an original one. It’s coming, in fact, from the US

“40 Days For Life” is a grassroots movement that was started in 2004 in Texas and has since expanded to more than 60 countries across the world, many of which are in Europe, including Germany, Spain, Ireland, the UK, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic.

The movement’s tactic is to stand outside abortion clinics and family planning centres for 40 days in an attempt to raise awareness of what it considers “the tragic reality of abortion” and to call for “repentance” for those who work at the facilities.

Thanks to the fact that the movement works like a franchise, getting funds from members across the world who pay for materials, support and training, 40 Days For Life has been able to reach as far as it has now, bringing the US culture wars to Europe.

Punishment, shame and guilt

In Germany, a pregnant person cannot get an abortion before visiting one of those centres. That’s because abortion is technically illegal in Germany, but it’s possible up to 12 weeks after conception if the pregnant person obtains a counselling certificate at least 3 days before the procedure.

Pro Familia, which has centres all across Germany, is certified to issue such certificates. That’s why it has become a target for anti-abortion activists.

Tomislav Čunović of 40 Days For Life told Euronews that the law proposed by the German government is “unconstitutional” should it be passed the way it is now. “It is anti-freedom and anti-democratic. It’s a shame for the German international reputation,” Čunović said.

The anti-abortion activist defended the vigils organised by his organisation saying they are “a prayer for the unborn children who are dying or threatened with death through abortion, and also for their relatives” and claiming their motivation is “peaceful and legitimate.”

But that’s not what those who work at the family planning centres say.


“The demonstrators watch our clients, sing, pray and show pictures – for example of babies, pregnant bellies or with expressions like: ‘Thanks, Mum, for letting me live’ or ‘Abortion is no solution’,” Hohmann said, adding how this can deeply hurt people seeking to terminate their pregnancies.

“People with an unwanted pregnancy feel shame and guilt anyway, and need an understanding, trustful and comforting setting,” she explained.

“This is important to be able to listen carefully and to understand the information given by the counsellor. The feeling of anonymity is also important. The people in front of the centre disturb this setting by purpose and damage the trust in the legally prescripted counselling,” Hohmann said. “Research has made clear that the psychic problems in connection with an abortion go back to the punishment-shame-and guilt-context in society.”

“The regular presence of anti-abortion protesters outside the counselling centre is a psychological burden for our staff,” Beate Martin, head of the Pro Familia advice centre in Münster, said.

“The counselling itself is also disrupted,” added her colleague, pregnancy counsellor Barbara Wittel. “Unwanted pregnant women and others seeking help on the way to a counselling session perceive the presence as disturbing and unpleasant. They cannot avoid being influenced and confronted by anti-abortion activists. It is then no longer possible to speak of a neutral counselling situation, as women are legally entitled to.”


For Hohmann and Pro Familia, it’s necessary to have a country-wide solution to forbid this sort of action.

“Local solutions have been overturned many times,” she told Euronews. “But the law has to be clear and strict and must interdict all actions that want to defame and unsettle pregnant people, doctors and counsellors and thereby improve the access to the best possible counselling and medical care.”

“It is the task of federal policy to protect the personal rights of those seeking counselling, and to do so nationwide,” said Pro Familia Federal Chairwoman Monika Börding.

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‘Dark money’ fuelling ‘retrograde’ anti-abortion activity in UK

“We should all be troubled that they [US anti-abortion groups] seem to be turning their fire on the UK,” one organisation warned.


“Dark money” has surged into UK anti-abortion groups in recent years, Euronews has learnt, aiding controversial activism and raising questions about overseas political influence inside the country.

According to data shared with Euronews by the Good Law Project, “shadowy” funds – where the source is obscured and not fully disclosed – nearly doubled for the UK branch of the “hate group” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) from 2020 to 2022.

Founded in the US in 1993, the ADF is an influential conservative group that aims to promote “Christian principles and ethics”. It is behind a host of legal efforts to roll back abortion rights, remove LGBT+ protections and demonise trans people. 

After claiming its “tireless work” helped the US Supreme Court overturn Roe v Wade, which guaranteed the right to abortion, the ADF has supported controversial anti-abortion activity in the UK, including protesters outside reproductive and sexual health clinics.

Concerns have risen among rights groups that the ADF is ramping up spending in an attempt to bring US-style abortion politics to the UK, where abortion is widely supported and generally available up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Dark money refers to funding that is given to political groups or politicians in an attempt to influence the democratic process whose source is not disclosed. When politically active nonprofits choose not the reveal where their money came from, they are considered dark money groups, according to Open Secrets, a US-based monitor.

“There is nothing “dark” about our money, but that does not mean we can or will publish the names of our more than 750,000 individual supporters – in clear contravention of data privacy law,” said ADF International in a statement sent to Euronews.

“We receive donations from supporters in 107 countries who contribute mostly small sums. This all goes toward our legal advocacy in defence of fundamental freedoms, to the benefit of everyone.”

While there’s no specific law forbidding organisations from publishing the names of their financial donors, British data protection laws mean they can only do so with their explicit consent.

“Dark money” flows into ADF UK – which is a registered charity – surged from £390,000 in 2020 to £770,000 in 2022, as per figures from the Good Law Project, a British NGO. 

ADF UK has not disclosed who its funders are. However, in its latest report, the charity said it “has received financial support in the form of unrestricted donations from Alliance Defending Freedom, a linked charity in the US.”

The global wing of the ADF reportedly has a multi-million dollar budget, but again does not reveal the identity of donors.

“You may be surprised – and horrified – to learn that the charitable status of a dark money funded hate group from the US means our taxes are subsidising anti-abortion protests in the UK,” said Jennine Walker, Legal Manager at Good Law Project, in a statement sent to Euronews.

“After their hand in overturning Roe v Wade in the US, we should all be deeply troubled that they now seem to be turning their fire on the UK. We may never even know the true identity of who is trying to influence our policy because their funding is so shadowy.”

ADF UK in recent months has given legal support to protesters in Birmingham and Bournemouth arrested within “buffer zones” – which are designed to protect women when they are seeking abortion care, the Good Law Project reports.

In Liverpool, ADF UK has supported a 76-year-old grandmother who was arrested and subject to a fixed penalty notice for walking, masked, silently in the vicinity of an abortion centre.

Protests outside sexual and reproductive health clinics are highly controversial as potentially vulnerable women can be subjected to intimidation and harassment before what can already be a difficult and emotional procedure.

“Regarding “protests” outside of abortion facilities: we wholeheartedly condemn harassment against women, which is already illegal in countries that respect law and order, as it should be,” said the ADF in a statement sent to Euronews.


“At the same time, we defend the rights to peaceful expression integral to a free society.”

The ADF said it had more than 1,500 open cases and legal matters in more than 100 countries. 

The US-based Southern Poverty Law Center has previously listed the ADF as a “hate group” for allegedly supporting the “idea that being LGBTQ+ should be a crime in the US.”

It has handed over hundreds of thousands of dollars to fringe organisations which have sought to diminish the rights of trans students in US schools, the Guardian reported in June. 

The ADF told Euronews this “hate group allegation” was “completely false”, claiming it “grossly mischaracterizes our global efforts to advance the human rights inherent to every person.”


Opening an office in London in 2017,  ADF UK has engaged in wider activity, speaking at universities, giving media interviews – including with the BBC – and hosting events on “Cancel Culture and Freedom of Speech”.

The Good Law Project says it has expanded its lobbying at Westminister, hosting events and engaging with All-Party Parliamentary Groups. 

An investigation by openDemocracy found it was also linked to campaigns against assisted dying in the UK.

“The majority of people in the UK believe women and pregnant people should be able to control their own bodies and access abortion care, if that is what they have chosen to do, free from harassment,” said Polly Jackman, National Coordinator of Sister Supporter, in an email received by Euronews.

“These fundamentalist groups don’t agree. They want to impose their retrograde view of women on the population of the UK by using their money to lobby the highest levels of our government without any accountability. It should not be allowed. In this country, we trust women, not agenda-driven lobbyists.”


According to pollsters YouGov, 87% of Britons say abortion should be allowed, compared to only 6% who say it should not, while 7% are unsure.

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Abortion rights yield gains for Democrats in off-year elections

The off-year elections have major implications and provide a snapshot of American politics heading into 2024. But two big names — Joe Biden and Donald Trump — weren’t on the ballot this time. How Americans view them will be a huge factor in shaping next year’s race.


Democrats in the United States had plenty of good news to celebrate in Tuesday’s off-year elections and more evidence that they can win races centred on the national debate over abortion.

Abortion rights supporters won an Ohio ballot measure and the Democratic governor of beet-red Kentucky held onto his office by campaigning on reproductive rights and painting his opponent as extremist. A Democrat won an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after campaigning on his pledge to uphold abortion rights. And Democrats took full control of the Virginia statehouse, blocking Republicans from being able to pass new abortion restrictions and delivering a defeat to Gov. Glenn Youngkin that may douse any buzz about a late entry into the GOP presidential primary.

The victories won’t be enough to make Democrats feel secure heading into next year’s presidential election. The off-year elections have major implications in all of those states and provide a snapshot of American politics heading into 2024. But two big names — Joe Biden and Donald Trump — weren’t on the ballot this time. How Americans view them will be a huge factor in shaping next year’s race.

Here are some key results from Tuesday’s voting.

Abortion remains powerful issue for Democrats

Democrats notched two early wins Tuesday night in Kentucky and Ohio, states that voted for Trump in 2020. In both states, abortion was the main campaign issue.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was reelected in a state that Trump had won by 26 percentage points. Beshear had criticized the abortion views of his Republican challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, in debates and television ads. One Beshear ad featured a woman who miscarried after being raped by her stepfather at age 12 expressing disbelief at Cameron’s opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest.

In Ohio, a ballot measure preserving abortion rights passed in a state that Trump won by eight percentage points in 2020. Republicans had already tried to derail the measure by calling an unusual August referendum to make it harder to pass ballot measures, an initiative that was roundly rejected by Ohio voters.

Later Tuesday, Dan McCaffery won an open seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court after positioning himself as a defender of abortion rights. And in Virginia, Democrats held the state Senate and flipped control of the Virginia House of Delegates from the GOP.

The outcomes suggest a transformed political landscape since a conservative majority of the US Supreme Court overturned a federal right to abortion last year. Abortion rights measures have passed in a plethora of states as some other Republican-run states have instituted new bans on the procedure.

Abortion rights may not be a potent enough issue to swing an election on its own. Several GOP governors who supported new bans cruised to reelection last year, including Ohio’s Mike DeWine, Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott.

But abortion was the key issue across the country on Tuesday. And that should worry Republicans in competitive races next year.

Good night for Democrats – but 2024 still hangs in the balance

It was a good night for Democrats following a series of wins in special elections and comes after a stronger performance in last year’s midterms, which are usually crushing for the party in power in Washington.

But none of the races were an up-or-down decision on the incumbent president, Biden. And none featured Trump on the ballot or his ability to turbocharge the turnout of infrequent voters.

Democrats have performed well in recent special elections and did better than expected in 2022. It increasingly seems like the party starts from a position of strength. But it’s not clear that translates to its 80-year-old president, who faces widespread scepticism about his job performance and whether he is too old to serve a second term.

We’ll have to wait until 2024 to see how Biden fares.

Virginia governor falls short

Glenn Youngkin burst on the political scene in 2021, winning an upset victory to become the Republican governor of Virginia, a state Biden won handily the previous year. Putting a moderate, suburban dad spin on modern Republicanism, Youngkin generated buzz that he could even make a late, surprise entry into the GOP presidential primary after this month’s elections.

Instead, Youngkin said he would focus on the 2023 legislative elections and winning full Republican control over the Virginia government. Things did not go the way he hoped.

Youngkin raised tens of millions of dollars for Republicans to defend their majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates and win control of the Senate, which Democrats narrowly held in 2021. Among the things the legislature could do with that majority, he said, was pass a 15-week abortion ban he favoured.


Youngkin didn’t really have a path forward in the presidential primary — his window to get on the ballot has already closed in some states. Virginia has an unusual single-term limit for governors, making Youngkin’s political future even more of a question.

Whatever he does, he’ll have to explain 2023. And he’ll face unified Democratic control of the statehouse for the rest of his term.

Democrats’ heartbreak hotel

It was a good night for Democrats, but it could only go so far.

The party invested heavily in an unlikely place: Mississippi, where Brandon Presley, best known as Elvis Presley’s second cousin, was challenging Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.

The party hoped that Presley’s celebrity and political skills, coupled with the change in a centuries-old provision originally designed to keep Black candidates from winning statewide races, could spell an unlikely victory. But it was not to be.


Reeves won the race. There are limited lessons to draw from a party falling short in a state its 2020 presidential candidate lost by 17 points, except one of the oldest — you can’t win ’em all.

Historic firsts

Political candidates broke barriers in a handful of wins Tuesday.

Former Biden White House aide Gabe Amo will become the first Black member of Congress from Rhode Island after winning the special election in that state’s first congressional district.

The son of West African immigrants, Amo emerged from a 12-candidate September primary to succeed retiring Representative David Cicilline. On Tuesday, Amo defeated Republican Gerry Leonard, a Marine veteran, in the heavily Democratic district.

And Philadelphia will have its first female mayor after Democrat Cherelle Parker defeated Republican David Oh in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

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Increases in abortion restrictions in Russia spark outrage

The government’s plan to restrict access to abortion as well as emergency contraceptives comes at a time in the conflict with Ukraine where women are increasingly deciding not to have children.


Women in Russia are facing increasing restrictions on their abortion rights, and although the procedure is still legal and widely available, recent attempts to restrict it have touched a nerve in the increasingly conservative country. 

Although the banning of the procedure is merely a proposal for now, private clinics across the country have already begun to stop providing abortions.

Nationwide, the Health Ministry has drawn up talking points for doctors to discourage women from terminating their pregnancies. New regulations, too, will soon make many emergency contraceptives virtually unavailable and drive up the cost of others.

Russian activists are stepping up their game, urging supporters to make official complaints, circulating online petitions and even staging small protests against the potential change to the law.

Some in the country and internationally say the change is similar to the overturning of the Roe-v-Wade legislation in the United States last year.

“It’s clear that there is a gradual erosion of abortion access and rights in Russia, and this is similar to what has taken place in the US,” Michele Rivkin-Fish, an anthropologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told the Associated Press.

Last year’s US Supreme Court decision rescinded a five-decade-old right to abortion almost immediately reshaped American abortion policy, shifting power to states as opposed to central government.

Over the last 16 months, about half of all US states have adopted bans or major restrictions – although not all are currently being enforced due to a variety of legal challenges.

In the Soviet Union – which came to an end in 1991 – abortion laws meant that some women had the procedure multiple times due to difficulties in obtaining contraceptives.

After the USSR’s collapse, government and health experts promoted family planning and birth control, which saw abortion rates fall significantly.

Until Vladimir Putin came to power in the late 1990s, laws allowed women to terminate a pregnancy up to 12 weeks without any conditions. They were also permitted to abort up to 22 weeks for so-called ‘social reasons’, including like divorce, unemployment or income changes.

Early on in his leadership, Putin forged a powerful alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church and chose to promote ‘traditional values’ while seeking to boost population growth.

It’s a position taken by many politicians in Russia.

Earlier this year, health minister Mikhail Murashko condemned women for prioritising education and career over childbearing.

Currently, abortion is only legally allowed between the period of 12 and 22 weeks in instances of rape.

All women seeking the procedure – depending on what stage of pregnancy – must wait at least 48 hours or up to a week between their first appointment and the abortion, in case they reconsider their choice.

State-issued guidelines ensure they are offered psychological consultations designed to discourage abortions.

Health authorities have also introduced an online ‘motivational questionnaire’ which outlines state support if women continue the pregnancy.


In one region, clinics refer women to a priest before getting an abortion. Authorities claim the consultation is voluntary, but some women have told the media they had to get a priest to sign off to be given permission to go through with the procedure.

With all those hurdles to jump over, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the number of abortions in Russia has fallen from 4.1 million in 1990 to 517,000 in 2021.

Increased restrictions in a time of war

The anti-abortion push comes as Russian women appear to be in no rush to have more children amid the war in Ukraine as well as economic uncertainty.

There are reports of a significant rise in sales of abortion pills since the beginning of the conflict in 2022 but a recent decree from the Health Ministry has restricted circulation of the medicines.

Mifepristone and misoprostol are used to terminate pregnancies in the first trimester. The decree puts the pills on a registry of controlled substances requiring strict record-keeping and storage making access ever more complicated for women in need.


The move is also likely to affect the availability of emergency contraceptives – sometimes known as morning-after pills.

Three out of six brands available in Russia contain mifepristone in a low dose, meaning they’ll be severely restricted once the decree takes effect in September 2024. Prices are also likely to shoot up due to the restrictions.

They will require a special prescription and many pharmacies won’t keep them in stock. Needing a prescription could mean women miss the time window in which to take the pills, which could result in an uptick in unwanted pregnancies.

The Health Ministry has not yet commented on whether or not they’ll exclude all morning-after pills in the decree but, if that does happen, Russian women may well be put into a very difficult position.

Changes at the top

Senior lawmakers are currently pushing for an outright, nationwide ban on abortion in private clinics. State statistics reveal that that’s where about 20% of procedures took place in recent years.


Conservative lawmakers have tried and failed to enact such a ban previously – but the Health Ministry now says it is ready to consider it.

Regional authorities are already succeeding in getting some private clinics to stop offering abortions.

Kaliningrad is mulling a region-wide ban and in Tatarstan officials say about a third of all private clinics no longer provide them.

An online petition against the ban in Kaliningrad has gathered nearly 27,000 signatures.

In seven other regions across Russia, the Health Ministry is using another pilot project: having gynaecologists try to get women to reconsider having an abortion.


A document given to doctors with a number of stock phrases to use during abortion consultations includes phrases like pregnancy is “a beautiful and natural condition for every woman,” while an abortion is “harmful to your health and a risk of developing complications”.

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Ohio Voters Reject Republican-Backed Measure to Make Constitutional Changes More Difficult, Setting Up Fall Referendum on Abortion Rights

Dennis Willard, spokesperson for One Person One Vote, celebrates the results of the election during a watch party on Aug. 8, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio voters have resoundingly rejected a Republican-backed measure that would have made it more difficult to pass abortion protections.
| Photo Credit: AP

Ohio voters on August 8 resoundingly rejected a Republican-backed measure that would have made it more difficult to change the State’s constitution, setting up a fall campaign that will become the nation’s latest referendum on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned nationwide protections last year.

The defeat of Issue 1 keeps in place a simple majority threshold for passing future constitutional amendments. It would have raised that to a 60% supermajority, which supporters said would protect the State’s foundational document from outside interest groups.

Opposition to the proposal was widespread, even spreading into Republican territory. In fact, in early returns, support for the measure fell far short of former President Donald Trump’s performance during the 2020 election in nearly every county.

Dennis Willard, a spokesperson for the opposition campaign One Person One Vote, called Issue 1 a “deceptive power grab” that was intended to diminish the influence of the State’s voters.

“Tonight is a major victory for democracy in Ohio,” Mr. Willard told a jubilant crowd at the opposition campaign’s watch party. “The majority still rules in Ohio.”

President Joe Biden hailed August 8th’s result, releasing a statement saying: “This measure was a blatant attempt to weaken voters’ voices and further erode the freedom of women to make their own health care decisions. Ohioans spoke loud and clear, and tonight democracy won.”

A major national group that opposes abortion rights, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, called the result “a sad day for Ohio” while criticizing the outside money that helped the opposition— even though both sides relied on national groups and individuals in their campaigns.

Republican lawmakers who had pushed the measure— and put it before voters during the height of summer vacation season— explained away the defeat as a result of too little time to adequately explain it to voters. A main backer, Republican Senate President Matt Huffman, predicted lawmakers would try again, though probably not as soon as next year.

“Obviously, there are a lot of folks that did not want this to happen — not just because of the November issues, but for all of the other ones that are coming,” he said.

While abortion was not directly on the special election ballot, the result marks the latest setback for Republicans in a conservative-leaning state who favour imposing tough restrictions on the procedure. Ohio Republicans placed the question on the summer ballot in hopes of undercutting a citizen initiative that voters will decide in November that seeks to enshrine abortion rights in the State.

Other States where voters have considered abortion rights since last year’s Supreme Court ruling have protected them, including in red States such as Kansas and Kentucky.

In trying to explain the defeat on the August 8 evening, State Rep. Jim Hoops, the House GOP whip, said the debate over Issue 1 became overly politicized because of the looming abortion rights question: “It’s just unfortunate that it became political.”

Interest in Ohio’s special election was intense, even after Republicans ignored their own law that took effect earlier this year to place the question before voters in August. Voters cast nearly 700,000 early in-person and mail ballots ahead of Tuesday’s final day of voting, more than double the number of advance votes in a typical primary election. Early turnout was especially heavy in the Democratic-leaning counties surrounding Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

One Person One Vote represented a broad, bipartisan coalition of voting rights, labour, faith and community groups. The group also had as allies four living ex-Governors of the State and five former State attorneys general of both parties, who called the proposed change bad public policy.

In place since 1912, the simple majority standard is a much more surmountable hurdle for Ohioans for Reproductive Rights, the group advancing November’s abortion rights amendment. It would establish “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom” with “reasonable limits.”

Eric Chon, a Columbus resident who voted against the measure, said there was a clear anti-abortion agenda to the election. Noting that the GOP voted just last year to get rid of August elections entirely due to low turnout for hyperlocal issues, Chon said, “Every time something doesn’t go their way, they change the rules.”

Voters in several States have approved ballot questions protecting access to abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but typically have done so with less than 60% of the vote. AP VoteCast polling last year found that 59% of Ohio voters say abortion should generally be legal.

The result came in the very type of August special election that Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a candidate for U.S. Senate, had previously testified against as undemocratic because of historically low turnout. Republican lawmakers just last year had voted to mostly eliminate such elections, a law they ignored for this year’s election.

Al Daum, of Hilliard, just west of Columbus, said he didn’t feel the rules were being changed to undermine the power of his vote and said he was in favor of the special election measure. Along with increasing the threshold to 60%, it would mandate that any signatures for a constitutional amendment be gathered from all of Ohio’s 88 counties, not just 44.

It’s a change that Mr. Daum said would give more Ohio residents a chance to make their voices heard.

GOP lawmakers had cited possible future amendments related to gun control or minimum wage increases as reasons a higher threshold should be required.

Voters’ rejection of the proposal marked a rare rebuke for Ohio Republicans, who have held power across every branch of state government for 12 years.

Ohio Right to Life, the State’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group and a key force behind the special election measure, vowed to continue fighting into the fall.

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Nearly two years after Texas’ six-week abortion ban, more infants are dying | CNN


Texas’ abortion restrictions – some of the strictest in the country – may be fueling a sudden spike in infant mortality as women are forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term.

Some 2,200 infants died in Texas in 2022 – an increase of 227 deaths, or 11.5%, over the previous year, according to preliminary infant mortality data CNN obtained through a public records request. Infant deaths caused by severe genetic and birth defects rose by 21.6%. That spike reversed a nearly decade-long decline. Between 2014 and 2021, infant deaths had fallen by nearly 15%.

In 2021, Texas banned abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy. When the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights the following summer, a trigger law in the state banned all abortions other than those intended to protect the life of the mother.

The increase in deaths could partly be explained by the fact that more babies are being born in Texas. One recent report found that in the final nine months of 2022, the state saw nearly 10,000 more births than expected prior to its abortion ban – an estimated 3% increase.

But multiple obstetrician-gynecologists who focus on high-risk pregnancies told CNN that Texas’ strict abortion laws likely contributed to the uptick in infant deaths.

“We all knew the infant mortality rate would go up, because many of these terminations were for pregnancies that don’t turn into healthy normal kids,” said Dr. Erika Werner, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts Medical Center. “It’s exactly what we all were concerned about.”

The issue of forcing women to carry out terminal and often high-risk pregnancies is at the core of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, with several women – who suffered difficult pregnancies or infant deaths shortly after giving birth – testifying in Travis County court this week.

Prior to the recent abortion restrictions, Texas banned the procedure after 20 weeks. This law gave parents more time to learn crucial information about a fetus’s brain formation and organ development, which doctors begin to test for at around 15 weeks.

Samantha Casiano, a plaintiff in the suit filed against Texas, wished she’d had more time to make the decision.

“If I was able to get the abortion with that time, I think it would have meant a lot to me because my daughter wouldn’t have suffered,” Casiano said.

When Casiano was 20 weeks pregnant, a routine scan came back with devastating news: Her baby would be stillborn or die shortly after birth.

The fetus had anencephaly, a rare birth defect that keeps the brain and skull from developing during pregnancy. Babies with this condition are often stillborn, though they sometimes live a few hours or days. Many women around the country who face the prospect choose abortion, two obstetrician-gynecologists told CNN.

But Casiano lived in Texas, where state legislators had recently banned most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. She couldn’t afford to travel out of the state for the procedure.

“You have no options. You will have to go through with your pregnancy,” Casiano’s doctor told her, she claimed in the lawsuit.

In March, Casiano gave birth to her daughter Halo. After gasping for air for four hours, the baby died, Casiano said during her testimony on Wednesday.

“All she could do was fight to try to get air. I had to watch my daughter go from being pink to red to purple. From being warm to cold,” said Casiano. “I just kept telling myself and my baby that I’m so sorry that this had to happen to you.”

Casiano and 14 others – including two doctors – are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They allege the abortion ban has denied them or their patients access to necessary obstetrical care. The plaintiffs are asking the courts to clarify when doctors can make medical exceptions to the state’s ban.

Casiano and two other plaintiffs testified Wednesday about hoping to deliver healthy babies but instead learning their lives or pregnancies were in danger.

 Plaintiffs Anna Zargarian, Lauren Miller, Lauren Hall, and Amanda Zurawski at the Texas State Capitol after filing a lawsuit on behalf of Texans harmed by the state's abortion ban on March 7 in Austin, Texas.

“This was just supposed to be a scan day,” Casiano told the court. “It escalated to me finding out my daughter was going to die.”

Lawyers representing the state argued Wednesday that the plaintiffs’ doctors were to blame, saying they misinterpreted the law and failed to provide adequate care for such high-risk pregnancies.

“Plaintiffs will not and cannot provide any evidence of any medical provider in the state of Texas being prosecuted or otherwise penalized for performance of an abortion using the emergency medical exemption,” a lawyer said during the state’s opening statement.

Kylie Beaton, another plaintiff, also had to watch her baby die. Beaton, who didn’t testify this week, learned during a 20-week scan that something was wrong with her baby’s brain, according to the suit.

The doctor diagnosed the fetus with alobar holoprosencephaly, a condition where the two hemispheres of the brain don’t properly divide. Babies with this condition are often stillborn or die soon after birth.

Beaton’s doctor told her he couldn’t provide an abortion unless she was severely ill, or the fetus’s heart stopped. Beaton and her husband sought to obtain an abortion out of state. However, the fetus’s head was enlarged due to its condition, and the only clinic that would perform an abortion charged up to $15,000. Beaton and her husband couldn’t afford it.

Instead, Beaton gave birth to a son she named Grant. The baby cried constantly, wouldn’t eat, and couldn’t be held upright for fear it would put too much pressure on his head, according to the suit. Four days later, Grant died.

Amanda Zurawski of Austin, Texas, center, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Experts say that abortion bans in states like Texas lead to increased risk for both babies and mothers.

Maternal mortality has long been a top concern for doctors and health-rights activists. Even before the Supreme Court decision, the United States had the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy nations, one study found.

Amanda Zurawski, the lawsuit’s lead plaintiff, testified Wednesday that her water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy, putting her at high risk for a life-threatening infection. Zurawski’s baby likely wouldn’t survive.

But the fetus still had a heartbeat, and so doctors said they were unable to terminate the pregnancy. She received an emergency abortion only after her condition worsened and she went into septic shock.

Zurawski described during Wednesday’s hearing how her family visited the hospital, fearing it would be the last time they would see her. Zurawski has argued that had she been able to obtain an abortion, her life wouldn’t have been in jeopardy in the same way.

“I blame the people who support these bans,” Zurawski said.

Zurawski previously said the language in Texas’ abortion laws is “incredibly vague, and it leaves doctors grappling with what they can and cannot do, what health care they can and cannot provide.”

Pregnancy is dangerous, and forcing a woman to carry a non-viable pregnancy to term is unnecessarily risky when it’s clear the baby will not survive, argued Dr. Mae-Lan Winchester, an Ohio maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

“Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous things a person will ever go through,” Winchester said. “Putting yourself through that risk without any benefit of taking a baby home at the end, it’s … risking maternal morbidity and mortality for nothing.”

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A 45-year-old got pregnant in a state with a ban on abortions. She flew across the country to get one | CNN


When 45-year-old Victoria realized she was five weeks late and the lines showed as positive on two pregnancy tests, the New Orleans resident dreamed up a plan to get an abortion.

Traveling out of state was the only abortion option for Victoria, who asked CNN to withhold her last name out of fear of backlash against her and her family. Louisiana is one of several states that have essentially banned all abortions.

“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through, from the moment of discovering that I was pregnant at age 45 to actually having to have to take time off work, travel across the country, do a meeting with a doctor, and then take the pills and then skedaddle back home and then go to work like nothing had happened,” Victoria told CNN of her experience earlier this year.

Victoria’s story about the distance she traveled and the hardships she endured to get an abortion reflects a wider American reality, where women seeking the procedure must navigate through a patchwork of states with varying levels of access.

The average travel time to an abortion facility more than tripled, from less than 30 minutes to more than an hour and a half, after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, according to a November study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And for women in Texas and Louisiana, average travel times to the nearest abortion facility were seven hours longer – almost a full workday in travel time to get an abortion.

Victoria says she was grateful she could drop everything and afford to spend $1,000 for the procedure, including same-week airfare with connections both ways and appointment and medication fees.

“It was so hard for me wrap my head around the fact that I was able to do this, but I’m one of the lucky ones and that there are so many women who are in much tighter positions,” Victoria said. “And, God, what are they going to do?”

Victoria says plans materialized quickly once she knew which states seemed more accessible.

She researched the parameters for abortion in a state, how long she would have to take off work, travel options and how soon she could get an appointment. She found abortionfinder.org to be a helpful and reliable source, she says.

“Because the situation is so fluid, it changes from day to day, that was really of paramount importance for me to be able to have a reliable source of information,” she said.

Driving to a neighboring state was not an option, as every state adjoining Louisiana has a similarly restrictive law that bans virtually all abortions. Victoria says she considered close states, like Florida, but she ultimately dismissed them because available appointments were farther out.

“Once I saw that Oregon was so, so protective of reproductive rights, I said, ‘Why would I think about going anywhere else?’” she said. “The second I got the definitive pregnancy result, I was like, ‘OK, let’s book a flight to Oregon. When can we do this?’”

She reached out to a friend from college and asked if she could stay with her, detailing the reason for her visit. She then made an appointment and booked a flight for that week, she says.

The provider sent instructions, including that the patient must be in Oregon for the telehealth appointment, according to documents provided to CNN. They contacted her within an hour of making the appointment to make sure she had proof of travel documents because she had made it from Louisiana, where the procedure is illegal.

Victoria planned to take a day off to fly across the country and work remotely for two days, which fits her hybrid work situation. She says she was grateful to have a supportive, female boss who showed understanding for why she had to take the unexpected time off.

“She was the only person I actually kind of broke down and cried for,” Victoria said. “I think it’s because I had been holding it back all week, and telling her was sort of the last thing that I needed to get in place before I could do everything.”

Victoria says the hardest part of her experience was telling her mother because she didn’t know how her mom would feel about it. Victoria and her siblings were raised Catholic. Her father had a strong faith and her mother was a non-practicing Catholic, her mother says. Victoria’s mom asked not to be named for privacy reasons.

Victoria’s mother says she wanted to support her daughter, even if she does not agree with what her daughter did. Victoria coming to her with tickets purchased and a full plan made it easy for her mother to support her, the mother says.

“I agreed to drive her to the airport and that that was the only thing I could do because this would be a real game-changing thing in her life,” her mother said. “I wanted to support what she wanted to do because she has supported me on several family crises. I just wanted to do it because I love her. “

Victoria said she appreciated her mom for being supportive in a way she didn’t expect. They talked about some of her mother’s friends who had abortions throughout the years, both say. Victoria’s mother even told her about when she tried to get her tubes tied, but her husband found out and she did not pursue it.

“I feel like, if anything, it’s made our relationship stronger,” Victoria said. “We already had a fantastically strong relationship, though. So, it’s another rock in the wall.”

After boarding early on a Wednesday in March, Victoria traveled for eight hours on two flights and landed in Portland, Oregon.

Victoria reunited with her friend, and they did the things that old friends do, from staying up late talking about college memories to talking about why Victoria was there. They both described the situation as surreal.

“The vast majority of reproductive conversations I have with friends at this point are people who are trying desperately to get pregnant,” said her friend, Emily, who asked that CNN not use her last name to keep Victoria’s privacy. “The sort of irony is that there could still be an unplanned pregnancy and it would still be just as devastating as it would have been when we were in our teens and twenties was kind of a shock to me.”

Emily, who has been friends with Victoria for about 25 years, says it took so little effort for her to drive to the airport and let her friend stay with her.

“I felt honored that she trusted me,” she said. “I was really proud of Victoria. I was impressed that she had taken this in stride and that she had reached out to someone she knew – I think a lot of people would have been ashamed or hidden it.”

After the telehealth appointment the next day, Victoria received an overnight package.

Victoria took two medications as part of a medication abortion. She took mifepristone at her friend’s home. The next day she took misoprostol before boarding her flight home – she was careful not to take them in her home state, where it’s illegal.

Misoprostol, taken after mifepristone, is a common combination prescribed for a medication abortion.

“It was like a heavy period,” she said. “I took some Aleve, had to get some extra jumbo pads, and I bled a lot on the flights home, but it was fine.”

Physically, she felt fine – it was more of what was happening psychologically that she noticed, she says.

“I had this feeling that I should be having some kind of deep, psychological moment of reckoning or something, but I didn’t really feel that,” Victoria said of the experience. “I’ve never wanted to have a kid. I wasn’t torn about this decision.”

When Victoria learned she was pregnant, a big part of the shock came from not thinking she could get pregnant at age 45, she says.

“You hear so much culturally out there about you’re in your forties, are told you’re too old to get pregnant and carry a child to term,” she said. “I feel like I had sort of a false sense of security.”

Victoria joked that she’s “careening toward menopause,” but she says she has not been diagnosed as perimenopausal.

Her pregnancy news came several months after she was treated for a uterine fibroid, a benign growth, in July 2022, according to medical records. Victoria also tested positive for a PALB2 gene mutation, which can lead to an increased chance of breast cancer, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. She underwent a preventative double mastectomy and reconstruction earlier in 2022, according to medical records provided to CNN.

She says she got an excellent standard of care around her surgeries, but it felt dissonant with her state’s laws around abortion.

“It felt so surreal to get this really high standard of care around my secondary sexual characteristics, but then to have that freeze, slam shut when it comes to reproductive health, it just felt abrupt,” she said.

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Texas woman almost dies because she couldn’t get an abortion | CNN


Another woman has come forward with the harrowing details of how the Supreme Court’s decision four months ago to overturn Roe v. Wade put her life in danger.

CNN has told the stories of several women – including one from Houston, one from central Texas and one from Cleveland – and what they had to do to obtain medically necessary abortions.

Now, a woman from Austin, Texas, has come forward because she nearly died when she couldn’t get a timely abortion.

This is her story.

Amanda Eid and Josh Zurawski, both now 35, met in 1991 at Aldersgate Academy preschool in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and dated in high school.

“Josh always tells me he’s been in love with me since we were 4 years old,” Amanda said.

Three years ago, they married in Austin, Texas, where they both work in high-tech jobs.

They tried to have a family but failed. Amanda had fertility treatments for a year and a half and finally became pregnant.

“Very excited to share that Baby Zurawski is expected in late January,” Amanda shared on Instagram in July. The post included a picture of her and her husband in “Mama” and “Dad” hats, Amanda holding a strip of ultrasound photos of their baby girl.

“The fact that we were pregnant at all was a miracle, and we were beside ourselves with happiness,” she said.

But then, 18 weeks – just four months – into her pregnancy, Amanda’s water broke.

The amniotic fluid that her baby depended upon was leaking out. She says her doctor told her the baby would not survive.

“We found out that we were going to lose our baby,” Amanda said. “My cervix was dilating fully 22 weeks prematurely, and I was inevitably going to miscarry.”

She and Josh begged the doctor to see if there was any way to save the baby.

“I just kept asking, ‘isn’t there anything we can do?’ And the answer was ‘no,’ ” Amanda said.

When a woman’s water breaks, she’s at high risk for a life-threatening infection. While Amanda and Josh’s baby – they named her Willow – was sure to die, she still had a heartbeat, and so doctors said that under Texas law, they were unable to terminate the pregnancy.

“My doctor said, ‘Well, right now we just have to wait, because we can’t induce labor, even though you’re 100% for sure going to lose your baby,’ ” Amanda said. “[The doctors] were unable to do their own jobs because of the way that the laws are written in Texas.”

Texas law allows for abortion if the mother “has a life-threatening physical condition aggravated, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

But Texas lawmakers haven’t spelled out exactly what that means, and a doctor found to be in violation of the law can face loss of their medical license and a possible life sentence in prison.

“They’re extremely vague,” said Katie Keith, director of the Health Policy and Law Initiative at Georgetown University Law Center. “They don’t spell out exactly the situations when an abortion can be provided.”

In September, CNN reached out to 28 Texas legislators who sponsored anti-abortion legislation, asking them for their response to CNN stories about the woman in Houston and the woman in central Texas.

Only one legislator responded.

“Like any other law, there are unintended consequences. We do not want to see any unintended consequences; if we do, it is our responsibility as legislators to fix those flaws,” wrote state Sen. Eddie Lucio, who will be leaving the Senate at the end of the year.

The Zurawskis participated in an ad for Beto O’Rourke’s unsuccessful Texas gubernatorial campaign.

After her water broke, Amanda’s doctors sent her home and told her to watch for signs of infection, and that only when she was “considered sick enough that my life was at risk” would they terminate the pregnancy, Amanda said.

“My doctor said it could take hours, it could take days, it could take weeks,” she remembers.

Once they heard “hours,” they decided there was no time to travel to another state for an abortion.

“The nearest ‘sanctuary’ state is at least an eight-hour drive,” Amanda wrote in an online essay on The Meteor. “Developing sepsis – which can kill quickly – in a car in the middle of the West Texas desert, or 30,000 feet above the ground, is a death sentence.”

So they waited it out in Texas.

On August 26, three days after her water broke, Amanda found herself shivering in the Texas heat.

“We were having a heat wave, I think it was 105 degrees that day, and I was freezing cold, and I was shaking, my teeth were chattering. I was trying to tell Josh that I didn’t feel good, and my teeth were chattering so hard that I could not even get the sentence out,” she said.

Josh was shocked by his wife’s condition.

“To see in a matter of maybe five minutes, for her to go from a normal temperature to the condition she was in was really, really scary,” he said. “Very quickly, she went downhill very, very fast. She was in a state I’ve never seen her in.”

Josh rushed his wife to the hospital. Her temperature was 102 degrees. She was too weak to walk on her own.

Her temperature went up to 103 degrees. Finally, Amanda was sick enough that the doctors felt legally safe to terminate the pregnancy, she said.

But Amanda was so sick that antibiotics wouldn’t stop the bacterial infection raging through her body. A blood transfusion didn’t cure her, either.

About 12 hours after her pregnancy was terminated, doctors and nurses flooded her room.

“There’s a lot of commotion, and I said, ‘what’s going on?’ and they said, ‘we’re moving you to the ICU,’ and I said, ‘why?’ and they said, ‘you’re developing symptoms of sepsis,’ ” she said.

Sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection, is a life-threatening medical emergency.

Amanda’s blood pressure plummeted. Her platelets dropped. She doesn’t remember much from that time.

But Josh does.

“It was really scary to see Amanda crash,” he said. “I was really scared I was going to lose her.”

Family members flew in from across the country because they feared it would be the last time they would see Amanda.

Doctors inserted an intravenous line near her heart to deliver antibiotics and medication to stabilize her blood pressure. Finally, Amanda turned the corner and survived.

But her medical ordeal isn’t over.

Amanda’s uterus suffered scarring from the infection, and she may not be able to have more children. She had a surgery recently to fix the scarring, but it’s unclear whether it will be successful.

That leaves the Zurawskis scared – and furious that they might never have a family because of a Texas law.

“[This] didn’t have to happen,” Amanda said. “That’s what’s so infuriating about all of this, is that we didn’t have to – we shouldn’t have had to – go through all of this trauma.”

The Zurawskis say the politicians who voted for the anti-abortion law call themselves “pro-life” – but they don’t see it that way.

“Amanda almost died. That’s not pro-life. Amanda will have challenges in the future having more kids. That’s not pro-life,” Josh said.

“Nothing about [this] feels pro-life,” his wife added.

In many ways, Amanda feels fortunate. She wonders whether she’d be alive today if it weren’t for her husband, who rushed her to the hospital and made sure she got the best care possible. And they have good jobs with good health insurance and they live in a big city with high quality health care.

“All of these things I had going for me, and still, this was the outcome,” she said.

She and Josh worry about women in rural areas, or poor women, or young, single mothers in states like Texas. What would happen to them, considering what happened to Amanda?

“These barbaric laws prevented her from getting any amount of health care when she needed it, until it was at a life-threatening moment,” Josh said.

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