Julia Robinson for NPR
New, untested abortion bans have made doctors unsure about treating some pregnancy complications, which has led to life-threatening delays and trapped families in a limbo of grief and helplessness.
Elizabeth Weller never dreamed that her own hopes for a child would become ensnared in the web of Texas abortion law.
She and her husband began trying in late 2021. They had bought a house in Kingwood, a lakeside development in Houston. Elizabeth was in graduate school for political science, and James taught middle-school math.
The Wellers were pleasantly surprised when they got pregnant early in 2022.
In retrospect, Elizabeth says their initial joy felt a little naive: “If it was so easy for us to get pregnant, then to us it was almost like a sign that this pregnancy was going to be easy for us.”
Things did go fairly smooth at first. Seventeen weeks into the pregnancy, they learned they were expecting a girl. They also had an anatomy scan, which revealed no problems. Even if it had, the Wellers were determined to proceed.
“We skipped over the genetic testing offered in the first trimester,” Elizabeth says. “I was born with a physical disability. If she had any physical ailments, I would never abort her for that issue.”
Elizabeth thought of abortion rights in broad terms: “I have said throughout my life I believe that women should have the access to the right to an abortion. I personally would never get one.”
And at this particular point in her life, pregnant for the first time at age 26, it was still somewhat abstract: “I had not been put in a position to where I had to weigh the real nuances that went into this situation. I had not been put in the crossroads of this issue.”
But in early May, not long after the uneventful anatomy scan, the Wellers suddenly arrived at that crossroads. There they found themselves pinned down, clinically and emotionally, victims of a collision between standard obstetrical practice and the rigid new demands of Texas law.
It was May 10, 2022. Elizabeth was 18 weeks pregnant. She ate a healthy breakfast, went for a walk outside and came back home.
In the nursery upstairs, they had already stashed some baby clothes and new cans of paint. Down in the kitchen, images from recent scans and ultrasounds