Some women in the United States, including sexual assault survivors, are choosing sterilization rather than facing the prospect of an unwanted pregnancy. A patient suffering from lupus has been forced to stop taking medication because it can also be used to induce an abortion. Doctors, faced with emergency situations, are delaying or declining treatment for fear of running afoul of anti-abortion laws.
An Ohio abortion clinic received calls from two women with ectopic pregnancies who said their doctors wouldn’t treat them. Ectopic pregnancies, where an embryo implants outside the womb and can never be saved, can often become life-threatening emergencies.
Dr. Jessian Munoz, an OB-GYN in San Antonio, Texas … said he faced an awful predicament with a recent patient who had started to miscarry and developed a dangerous womb infection. The fetus still had signs of a heartbeat, so an immediate abortion — the usual standard of care — would have been illegal under Texas law.
“We physically watched her get sicker and sicker and sicker” until the fetal heartbeat stopped the next day, “and then we could intervene,” he said. The patient developed complications, required surgery, lost multiple liters of blood and had to be put on a breathing machine “all because we were essentially 24 hours behind.’’
In another case, a woman in Wisconsin was left to bleed for more than 10 days after an incomplete miscarriage.
Carley Zeal, an OB/GYN in southern Wisconsin and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told The Washington Post that the unidentified woman was going through a miscarriage and needed to have the fetal tissue removed from her uterus.
However because of Wisconsin’s outright ban on abortion, the woman was turned away by emergency room staff at a hospital in the state.
Dr Zeal said that she saw the woman more than 10 days later when she was still bleeding severely and at serious risk of infection.
She treated the patient with medication to expel the fetal tissue from her uterus – the same medication used in many abortions.
“It really delayed her care,” Dr Zeal said. “I saw her a week and a half later with an ongoing miscarriage and bleeding, increasing the risk of severe bleeding as well as infections.”
“She knew exactly what she had to do because [the woman] was bleeding and was clearly going to die if nothing was done,” Zeal said. “But she wasn’t sure what she needed to document to be sure she wouldn’t be charged with a felony.”
Some lawyers have advised physicians in her practice to get two additional doctors to sign off that a patient’s life is indeed in danger; other lawyers say no additional signature is needed. To protect herself from criminal prosecution, Zeal’s colleague Elana Wistrom turned to an emergency room physician who treated the patient and a radiologist who reviewed the ultrasound showing the rupture — a process that took more than an hour.
In Missouri, hospital administrators required “pharmacist approval” before dispensing medications to stop postpartum hemorrhages because they can also be used for abortions. Doctors in Texas report that pharmacists have started interrogating patients about miscarriage medications because they can also be used for abortions.
And there’s more. According to a report in The Advocate:
In Louisiana, a woman who was 16 weeks pregnant had her water break, and her doctor wanted to perform a dilation and evacuation, a type of abortion procedure, to remove the fetus which was not viable.
A woman who was 16 weeks pregnant had her water break, and her doctor wanted to preform a dilation and evacuation, a type of abortion procedure, to take out the fetus, which was not viable. But the doctor consulted with an attorney, who advised against it.
According to an affidavit filed by the doctor, Valerie Williams, the woman preferred the abortion, but instead “was forced to go through a painful, hours-long labor to deliver a nonviable fetus, despite her wishes and best medical advice.”
“She was screaming — not from pain, but from the emotional trauma she was experiencing,” the doctor wrote. The woman then hemorrhaged nearly a liter of blood, according to the affidavit.
The most galling thing about all these examples is that, in some instances, politicians’ stances against abortion are driven by election-year politics with no concern for the consequences on the health and safety of women. And for economically vulnerable women who don’t have the option of good medical care, as in the examples above, the outcome is sometimes death.