Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’ Rourke held a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Houston Women’s Reproductive Services Center to mark the state’s trigger law, which bans abortion starting at conception with no exceptions for rape, incest, and narrow exceptions for the pregnant person’s life.
Alongside O’Rourke at the press conference were physicians, abortion providers, and women experiencing the brunt of the state’s restrictive abortion policies since Senate Bill 8, a six-week abortion ban, went into effect last year.
“The only way through this is to defeat him,” O’Rourke said. “Texas is not the cruelty, incompetence, or chaos you see from Greg Abbott. Texas is so much bigger and better than all of that.”
Since SB8 and the reversal of Roe, story after story has emerged of the real-life consequences the abortion ban has had for many pregnant Texans in wanted and unwanted pregnancies.
At the press conference, University of Houston political science graduate student Elizabeth Weller spoke about how excited she and her husband were when she discovered she was pregnant earlier this year until things took a turn.
“At 18 weeks and six days, my water had broken,” Weller said. “I was rushed to the emergency room, where I was told my amniotic sac had burst. I was told that no matter what, whether I chose to continue with the pregnancy or halted it… when my baby left my body, she would die immediately. There was nothing that anybody could do.”
In compliance with Texas law, Weller said the hospital administration told her she wasn’t sick enough yet and would either need to wait for her to develop an infection or for the fetus to die.
“This situation put me in a position where I had to risk my life,” Weller said. “And this is going to be the reality for any women in the state of Texas and other states approaching abortion laws in a restrictive manner that they are.”
The abortion bans have been enacted even as Texas has been ranked among the highest states in the maternal mortality rate for Black women, who are three times more likely to die in childbirth.
At the press conference, advocate Lesli-Elsie Simms highlighted the reality for Black women in Texas navigating the structural racism of the healthcare system.
“In a state, Texas, with one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, this state has decided to simultaneously over-legislate and over criminalize Black women and Black people with uteruses,” Simms said. “I stand here today because this is bigger than abortion rights. This is my ability, my family’s ability, and my community’s ability to access affordable, trustworthy, culturally competent medical care for various gender identities and immigration statuses.”
Harris County Family Physician Dr. Lee Bar-Eli also said that because of these bans, Texas doctors are scared and becoming more political to save their patients and themselves.
“Greg Abbott is not a doctor,” she said. “He did not go to medical school and do a residency. He does not understand the complexities of healthcare choices. If we don’t work to elect somebody like Beto O’Rourke, then we don’t get to practice medicine the way we need to for our patients.”
The Signal also asked Bar-Eli how the Texas court’s recent ruling to side with AG Ken Paxton in not requiring hospitals to provide emergency abortions under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act is impacting doctors; she said it’s a lot to keep up with.
“We’re busy, and we have lives,” she said. “That’s terrifying if we’re not going to value the mother’s life, and a judge in Lubbock is going to determine how I practice medicine.”
Photos: Kennedy Sessions / © Texas Signal Media Company