Jill Biden Invites Austinite Nearly Killed by Abortion Ban to State of the Union

Still, Biden dedicated little time to abortion in his address

Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova receives applause from first lady Jill Biden (in magenta) and other guests in Biden's viewing box, including Austinite Amanda Zurawski (top-right, wearing gold necklace) and her husband, Josh (top-right, in navy blue) (Screenshot via the White House)

As is always true of the State of the Union address, the president had much ground to cover Tuesday night. He highlighted progress in the economy and leaned into top-of-mind issues for Demo­crats, such as capping prescription drug prices, increasing microchip production in the U.S., reducing inflation, and ensuring that "no billionaire [pays] a lower tax rate than a school teacher or a firefighter. I mean it."

At one point, President Joe Biden directed his audience's attention to the parents of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten to death by Memphis police officers this month. They stood from their seats in first lady Jill Biden's viewing box amid applause. Among the other guests who put faces to some of America's most painful problems were the parents of a toddler fighting cancer, the father of a woman who died from a fentanyl overdose at the age of 20, Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova, and, a few seats away from Jill Biden, Austinite Amanda Zurawski, who nearly died last year when her doctor, in accordance with Texas' extreme abortion ban, refused to intervene in a pregnancy that threatened her life and gave her fetus no chance of survival.

Amanda and her husband, Josh, had gone through a year and a half of fertility treatments before Zurawski became pregnant. At 18 weeks, she started miscarrying. Doctors couldn't help her abort because the fetus had a faint heartbeat and Zurawski wasn't dying – yet. So they sent Zurawski home, where three days later she developed life­-threatening sepsis. Only then were doctors able to perform a lifesaving abortion, the only kind that's legal in Texas.

While the Bidens invited the Zurawskis to the address – and, as Zurawski told the Statesman, they were "hopeful that this will help highlight for the American people the devastating impacts the restrictive anti-abortion laws are having on women" – Biden chose not to tell their story to the audience. About an hour in, he pivoted briefly from discussion of securing the border and a pathway to citizenship. "Here in the People's House, it's our duty to protect all the people's rights and freedoms. Congress must restore the right …" Here he was cut off by shouts of "close the border" from lawmakers in the audience. He picked back up, "Congress must restore the right that was taken away in Roe v. Wade and protect Roe v. Wade. The vice president and I are doing everything we can to protect access to reproductive health care and safeguard patient safety. But already more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans. Make no mistake about it, if Congress passes a national ban, I will veto it." That was it. Biden's ­discussion of the loss of a constitutional right to a lifesaving and life-changing procedure took roughly 30 seconds.

Still, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, appreciated that Biden invited the couple. "Wonderful to welcome Amanda Zurawski to Wash­ington, but horrible that she needs to be here. Her life was endangered by Texas Republican extremists with a radical law. … Her story so clearly illustrates: abortion care is health care."

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abortion, Jill Biden, Amanda Zurawski, Joe Biden, Lloyd Doggett

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