‘I nearly died’: These women brought a grim warning to Wisconsin about abortion care restrictions

A group talks about abortion restrictions at a coffee shop in Eau Claire.

A group gathers at a coffee shop in Eau Claire to hear women who had life-changing experiences with abortion laws. Photo by Salina Heller

By Salina Heller

April 30, 2024

Traveling the country, they tell the real life-or-death situations that they faced because of extreme bans after the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

For about 15 months after Roe v. Wade was overturned, the state legislature effectively banned abortions in Wisconsin—while reverting back to a law written in 1849. Abortion care services have been restored for the time being, while interpretation of that archaic law is working its way through the courts.

But around the rest of the country, new restrictions on abortion rights keep popping up in states with Republican leadership—many of them leaving room only for abortions that save the life of a pregnant woman. And as they’re passed, the new laws are giving us all a reality check for just how close to death a woman has to be before she can get health care.

“I crashed into septic shock and nearly died,” Amanda Zuraswki quietly but confidently told a group of men and women sitting in a coffee shop in Eau Claire. “My doctors stabilized my vitals long enough to deliver the baby.”

“Then I crashed again with another bout of sepsis. I was in the ICU for three days, and in the hospital for about a week. Our parents flew in from Indiana because they thought I was going to die.”

Hushed gasps in disbelief and empathy could be heard from those gathered at the table.

When she was 18 weeks pregnant in Austin, Texas, Amanda and her husband Josh were told their baby girl was not going to survive the pregnancy. Rather than immediately induce Amanda to end the pregnancy, doctors waited days for her to develop an infection and slip into life-threatening septic shock. It was only then that doctors said they could perform an abortion to “save the life of the mother.”

“In that very dark and very lonely hospital room is when I realized that I was actually lucky because I didn’t die and I knew others weren’t going to be so lucky,” Amanda recounted.

Wisconsin’s abortion landscape

Earlier this year, Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly approved a bill that would create a binding statewide referendum that could ban abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy.

But before the legislative session ended, Senate Republicans stalled the bill, knowing it faced a certain veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

With just six months to go before the general elections, concerned women from states with extreme restrictions on reproductive rights are coming forward to warn Wisconsinites about what life could be like if our GOP gets its way.

Fear around physicians

Sharing the unfortunate and undesired spotlight with Amanda, while intent listeners sipped coffee, was Kaitlyn Joshua—a mother from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She had an equally heartbreaking story to convey.

At nearly 11 weeks pregnant, Kaitlyn was turned away from three medical centers over several days while she was having a miscarriage. She was in pain and bleeding heavily.

“The medical team evaluated me and told me that my fetus had completely stopped growing, but they would not confirm or deny that I was having a miscarriage, even though I knew myself that I probably was,” Kaitlyn shared. “Because of the state’s abortion ban, the health care team was afraid to tell me what was happening.”

She said doctors were fearful to perform the necessary procedure—a dilation and curettage, or D&C—to end her pregnancy. The procedure is the same as an abortion.

“They actually sent me home with prayers,” Kaitlyn said. “They literally told me, ‘We’re going to pray for you.’”

State Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) was alongside the pair of women to give support. “Donald Trump owns every state ban across the country—whether it’s in Texas or Louisiana, which impacted Amanda and Kaitlyn, or in Arizona where the state Supreme Court reinstated a draconian ban, or here in Wisconsin, where women were left in limbo because of an 1849 law,” she said.

“With reproductive freedom on the ballot in November, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are the only candidates who stand up for women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.”

Stakes are high

“This is real,” Amanda said. “It can happen in Wisconsin—it can happen in any state if Trump is reelected because we know that he’ll support a national abortion ban no matter what he’s saying.”

“We’re trying to get across that abortion is on the ballot,” Kaitlyn said. “Abortion is under attack.”

“This fall it is up to us as women, as men who support women—to put the right person in office. That is the only way to make sure that we are not potentially dealing with a total abortion ban in all 50 states.”

The women also both share the opinion that it’s time to stop letting politicians—namely Republican politicians—get in the middle of health decisions. They gave parting words to Wisconsites as they left the coffee shop to head back to their families.

“What I went through was absolutely barbaric but it didn’t need to happen—it was preventable—it was avoidable, but it did happen because of Donald Trump,” Amanda said. “Over and over again, he brags about killing Roe vs. Wade and it’s unthinkable to me that anyone could cheer on these abortion bans that nearly killed me.”

“The stakes in this election could not be higher for our future and for our lives.”


  • Salina Heller

    A former 15-year veteran of reporting local news for western Wisconsin TV and radio stations, Salina Heller also volunteers in community theater, helps organize the Chippewa Valley Air Show, and is kept busy by her daughter’s elementary school PTA meetings. She is a UW-Eau Claire alum.



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