Column: Deep in the Heartlessness of Texas: Is Abortion Law an Antisemitic Plot?

Jewish Texans, estimated to number 176,000, should probably worry about the deep in the heartlessness of the Texas abortion law – with the reporting of Amanda Eid’s near-death experience.

The majority of Texas lawmakers approved legislation that severely sickened Eid and almost killed her last August because she could only end her pregnancy when her life was threatened. Now she may be unable to bear any children in the future.

The outcome of strict abortion laws would, it seems, propel an increase in births if not an outright population explosion. The Texas law could simultaneously contain the birth rate because women who survive a failed pregnancy may be unable bear children afterwards.

We could interpret this as an antisemitic plot to control the Jewish population – if this was the intended result. This situation has pronounced implications for Jews. For a people who comprise less than 2 percent of the world’s population, the anti-abortion law might be welcomed by those concerned about Jewish population growth.

The opposite could be true in some cases. Under the Texas law, women who must end a pregnancy – and survive the experience – could be harmed enough so that it will be perilous to attempt to bear children again. The Jewish population comprises 2 percent of America’s 330 million citizens, and many Jews fear our numbers are not rising high enough. Though abortion restrictions would compel more births of Jewish children, the Texas law creates conditions that would prevent some future births.

In a movement that thrives on comparisons to the Holocaust, abortion opponents must recognize the impact that 6 million murders during World War II had on the Jewish people. This law could preclude growth of the Jewish population.

Deep in the heartlessness of Texas, the law permits 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,” according to CNN.

Texas legislators did not bother to clarify what that means, and a physician who is found to violate the law can face a possible life sentence in prison and loss of their medical license. Katie Keith told a CNN reporter, “They’re extremely vague. They don’t spell out exactly the situations when an abortion can be provided.” (Keith is director of the Health Policy and Law Initiative at Georgetown University Law Center.)

As only one of 28 co-sponsors of the law to respond to CNN inquiries, lame-duck state Sen. Eddie Lucio wrote, “We do not want to see any unintended consequences; if we do, it is our responsibility to fix those flaws.”

Too late for Amanda Eid and her husband, Josh Zurawski, an Austin couple who fervently sought to start a family. Amanda became pregnant after taking fertility treatments for a year and a half.

As CNN recounts, Amanda’s water broke four months into her pregnancy. The amniotic fluid that her baby depended upon was leaking out, and her doctor told her the baby would not survive. “My cervix was dilating fully 22 weeks prematurely, and I was inevitably going to miscarry,” she said.

Texas law barred her doctor from terminating the pregnancy because the baby still had a heartbeat. “(The doctors) were unable to do their own jobs because of the way that the laws are written in Texas,” she said.

Amanda recalled for CNN that only when she was “considered sick enough that my life was at risk” would they end the pregnancy. The couple decided against driving or flying to Colorado, the nearest state where abortion is legal, after they learned that an emergency could occur within hours.

Three days later, on Aug. 26, Amanda said, “We were having a heat wave…and I was freezing cold, and I was shaking, my teeth were chattering.”

“Very quickly, she went downhill very, very fast. She was in a state I’ve never seen her in,” Josh recalled. He rushed her to the hospital and she was too weak to walk on her own. Her temperature rose to 103 degrees, and the CNN report then stated: “Amanda was sick enough that the doctors felt legally safe to terminate the pregnancy,” she said.

That passage sticks in my mind: “sick enough … (to be) legally safe…”

Her pregnancy was terminated and 12 hours later she was moved to the intensive care unit because she was developing sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection that is a life-threatening medical emergency. Amanda survived after further treatment.

This comment from Josh also sticks in my mind: “I was really scared I was going to lose her.”

Her medical ordeal moved to another stage. According to CNN, Amanda’s uterus suffered scarring from the infection, and she may be unable to have more children. She underwent surgery to fix the scarring, but it is not clear if it will succeed.

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

“Amanda almost died,” Josh added. “Amanda will have challenges in the future having more kids. That’s not pro-life. … These barbaric laws prevented her from getting any amount of health care when she needed it.”

Texas lawmakers surely were not trying to quash Jewish population growth, so I believe, when they voted for these restrictions, but that is what could happen. Suppose that GOP South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposal for a national abortion ban becomes law that might threaten all 6 million Jews in America.

Of course, the Texas law or any federal legislation would be a travesty for all American families. During his failed campaign for governor of Texas, Democrat Beto O’Rourke broadcast a commercial revealing what the law did to Amanda and Josh, whose religion has not been mentioned in the media.

Legislation is being prepared by a Democrat to permit pregnancy termination before a patient becomes seriously ill, , writes Bridget Grumet in the Austin American-Statesman. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who won re-election on Nov. 8, acknowledged that revision is necessary. “Too many allegations have been made about ways in which the lives of the mother are not being protected…and so that must be clarified” in the next legislative session.

Grumet points out that this means waiting at least six months for the next legislative session, though Abbott could call a special session to prevent more potential deaths. It was urgent enough in the past for Abbott to call special sessions to enact the abortion restrictions and other laws.

For cluelessness and being tone-deaf, at least Abbott is consistent. State Rep. Donna Howard, who is working on the change in the law, noted that lawmakers kept physicians out of the loop when they composed the legislation. “They did not really fully understand what the implications were going to be, because (an abortion ban) is something they’ve been working blindly on for years, and putting the templates for legislation out there without really fully understanding it.”

Certainly bad for Jewish Texans. Bad for everyone.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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