Suppose you're a woman who's suffered miscarriages or has cancer and very much wants a baby. But your state's near ban on abortion lets government bureaucrats or even total strangers go after doctors who might perform one to save your life or ability to have another child.
The abortion law in Texas has added so many layers of anxiety to pregnancy that some women have decided to not get pregnant at all, according to Dr. Patrick Ramsey, head of maternal medicine at University of Texas Health, San Antonio. He says women, especially those over 35 and at risk of complications, worry that it's no longer safe to get pregnant in the state of Texas.
Sarah Morris found 10 weeks into her pregnancy that she had cervical cancer. "This is a baby we want," she told the Houston Chronicle, "but I don't want to die."
At higher risk of bleeding and other life-threatening complications, Morris had few safe treatment options for the cancer that wouldn't hurt the baby. Keeping the baby would mean letting the cancer to grow unchecked until delivery.
Texas bans abortions six weeks after conception, a period in which most women don't know they're pregnant. The law's exception for medical emergencies ignores the realities of complicated cases. Many problems that seem manageable at first take sudden turns for the worst. Thus, an honest medical judgment might be to end the pregnancy before the woman is at death's door.
About eight percent of pregnancies involve complications that, if ignored, would hurt the mother or the baby, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The Texas law opens doctors to second-guessing by total strangers, who could collect $10,000 or more if they can show that the law was violated. In addition to facing lawsuits and minimum fines of $100,000, the providers could lose their medical licenses. They could even be sentenced to life in prison.
Morris' doctor wouldn't take the risk. She told the pregnant woman that she would have to be on the cusp of death before she'd do the abortion.
If you're a pregnant woman faced with this traumatic set of facts, what do you do? Do you go out and hunt for a new set of doctors in another state where an abortion could be performed?
Elizabeth Sepper, a law professor at the University of Texas in Austin, said the law "chills medical providers who are afraid their particular patient's case won't perfectly fit within the exception or they'll have to prove a case fits within the exception."
A recent study at Dallas hospitals found that pregnant patients faced nearly double the risk of serious health consequences after the six-week abortion ban law took effect. Curiously, Texas is delaying publication of updated maternal death data until after the midterms.
Fifteen weeks into her pregnancy, Kristina Cruickshank arrived at Houston Methodist Sugar Land vomiting, in pain and knowing she had lost her unborn baby. Another Texas hospital able to provide proper treatment at first declined her transfer and then put her case before an ethics committee before it would do anything. This took three days.
The Texas Medical Association and Baylor College of Medicine have asked the state to clarify its abortion law to protect providers who act in good faith.
Consider that under Roe v. Wade, Morris and her husband could have easily ended the 10-week pregnancy, obtained cancer treatment and then tried again to have more children. The Cruickshanks could have shortened their torment and attend to Kristina's recovery.
Threats. Hounding by creeps seeking $10,000 bounties. Physical and mental agony because doctors are afraid to act. Such are the risks of getting pregnant in the state of Texas. Small wonder if fewer women even try.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.
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