Molly Duane, Center for Reproductive Rights attorney, left, and CEO Nancy Northup, right, stand with plaintiffs, from left, Lauren Hall, Amanda Zurawski, Anna Zargarian and Lauren Miller on Tuesday at the Texas Capitol in Austin. They filed a lawsuit against the state's abortion ban. (Acacia Coronado/AP)
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Five women have filed a lawsuit against Texas over the state’s near-total abortion ban in the first case of its kind since the Supreme Court overturned Roe last year.

The women say the Republican-led state’s abortion law has denied them, and countless other pregnant women, proper obstetrics health care and placed their lives in danger, according to the lawsuit unsealed Tuesday.

The suit, first reported by the New York Times, is the first to be brought on behalf of women denied abortions against a state that enacted a new abortion ban after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the group representing the women say.

Interpretations of the 14th Amendment have been key in extending a slew of legal protections including civil rights, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Texas’s abortion ban has stoked fears among physicians of losing their licenses, being fined, and possibly facing civil and criminal charges for performing lifesaving obstetrics care, according to the suit, filed in Travis County District Court. This, the women say, has created a hush-hush code within the medical community that prevented them from accessing urgent care when they needed it most.

All five women should have qualified for an abortion under the law’s exception, lead attorney Molly Duane said at a Tuesday news conference.

“We invite the court to help us craft a remedy to make sure the harms we are seeing every day in Texas and in the country do not continue to happen,” Duane said.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the lawsuit was the first of its kind but is unlikely to be the last.

“It is now dangerous to be pregnant in Texas,” Northup told reporters at Tuesday’s news conference alongside four of the five women. “ … No one should be forced to wait at death’s door to receive health care. … These women represent only the tip of the iceberg.”

The untold story of the Texas abortion ban

As a result of the ban, four of the women were forced to travel to other states to get emergency abortions, the lawsuit states. The fifth, lead plaintiff Amanda Zurawski, could not have an abortion despite her fetus having no chance of surviving, and was only allowed to deliver after she became septic, leaving her with permanent physical damage.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Zurawski, 35, recounted the day she learned during her 18th week of pregnancy that her fetus would not survive after she was diagnosed with an “incompetent cervix,” weakening of the cervical tissue that causes premature dilation of the cervix.

Zurawski, who underwent a-year-and-a-half of fertility treatments, was only allowed to deliver baby Willow after she developed sepsis, the lawsuit states. Willow died after birth.

“We were told by multiple doctors that the loss of my daughter was inevitable,” Zurawski said Tuesday. “Even though I had lost all of my amniotic fluid — something an unborn child cannot survive without — we had to wait.”

After the delivery, court records state, she spent three days in the ICU while doctors treated her infection, which left her with an obstructed fallopian tube.

“I could not put adequately into words the trauma or despair that comes with waiting to lose your own life, your child’s life or both,” Zurawski said. “For days, I was locked in this bizarre and avoidable hell. Would Willow’s heart stop, or would I deteriorate to the point of death?”

Another of the women suing the state, Lauren Miller, 35, said she had no option but to fly with her husband to Colorado to undergo a fetal reduction abortion to save the life of one of her twins at 15 weeks.

“How is it that I can get an abortion for a dog but not for me?” Miller asked Tuesday.

One of Miller’s twins was diagnosed with trisomy 18, a condition with a high chance of miscarriage or stillbirth, and low survival rates beyond their first birthday, court records state. Her life and the life of her other baby depended on an abortion that the state of Texas denied her, she said.

“I was lucky,” Miller said. “I had the connections with out-of-state doctors. I had family to watch my son. We had the time and money to make the journey, but money and privilege should not dictate how much access [a woman has.]”

This Texas teen wanted an abortion. She now has twins.

The lawsuit comes as drugstore chains have become another battleground in the fight for abortion and medication access in the United States. Walgreens recently announced that it would not distribute abortion pills in 20 Republican-led states, including some where abortion medication is legal.

Walgreens said Friday that it would not dispense mifepristone, the first of two drugs given in the medication process for an abortion. This announcement came weeks after the attorneys general in those states, all Republicans, wrote a Feb. 1 letter to Walgreens and pharmacy chain CVS warning them of legal consequences if they sold abortion pills by mail.

Democratic lawmakers are also hoping that a recent lawsuit regarding how mifepristone is distributed will help. Twelve Democratic state attorneys general sued the Food and Drug Administration last month as part of a push to loosen restrictions on the distribution of mifepristone.

The lawsuit accuses the FDA of “singling out” and imposing “particularly burdensome” limitations on the distribution of mifepristone, which blocks the progesterone hormone that helps the body maintain a pregnancy.

The legal challenge is being led by the attorneys general for Washington and Oregon, and was filed in a U.S. District Court in Washington state.

In Texas, three separate abortion bans are on the books, including a so-called “trigger ban” that makes abortion a crime punishable by up to life in prison. Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Texas federal judge nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed in 2019, has the opportunity to impose the most far-reaching limit on abortion access since Roe was overturned.

Kacsmaryk is expected to rule soon on a lawsuit seeking to revoke U.S. government approval of mifepristone — an outcome that could, at least temporarily, halt more than half of the legal abortions carried out across the country, including in states led by Democrats where abortion rights are protected.

Caroline Kitchener and Ann E. Marimow contributed to this report.