Wednesday, November 30, 2022

“Ignorants made a decision for me”: the trauma of a woman accessing an abortion in Texas with a fetus without a heartbeat

On June 22, Carla had to process several news stories at once. At the seven-week ultrasound, the doctor told her that the baby’s heart was no longer beating. The fetus was dead. And although she lives in one of Texas’s big cities, for her the solution was as clear as it was painful: they had to perform an abortion on her. But for the doctor who attended her, the next steps were not so clear due to the harsh anti-abortion law that has been in force in the state since September 2021, SB8, and the possibility of the STF ending it soon in the United States. , something that happened two days later.

I have a diatribe. I don’t know if I’ll be able to prescribe the medicine for you to abort. I can prescribe, but there are pharmacies that don’t serve the prescription for us. I have to explain your situation well for the pharmacy to approve,” the doctor told Carla, who preferred to use another name and not mention the hospital for fear of legal repercussions against her doctor.
“Doc, but they didn’t find a heartbeat,” she replied.
“Don’t worry, I’ll check with him. painting from the hospital and I’ll let you know at the end of the day,” he replied. She explained that she was also going to ask if she could have the abortion in the hospital or if she should travel to another state where the right is protected.

At that same appointment, the doctor told her that he had another patient at 14 weeks’ gestation whose fetus had been diagnosed with anencephaly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines it as a “severe birth defect in which the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull”. They specify that “Almost all babies born with anencephaly will die soon after birth.” That mother, the doctor told her, could not have an abortion in that hospital.

Despondent, with the baby dead in the womb and unable to help her right away, Carla left the appointment: “I felt super limited, with added stress that you shouldn’t have as a woman at that time. Just hear that her pregnancy hasn’t progressed, for them to say they can’t help her ‘because the law doesn’t allow us to help her’, even if she didn’t beat her.”.

When she went to the pharmacy in the afternoon to get the prescription for the abortion pill, she remembers that the saleswoman was hesitant to sell it to her: “If you don’t want that,” she told her, not mentioning the misoprostol that was inside the bag of paper, “I won’t give it to you.” “. Carla insisted that she loved her, needed her: “The lady’s face was the reflection of the whole situation, of concern, as if she was afraid that someone would see her”.

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Texas’ anti-abortion law has been one of the most questioned by civil rights organizations and medical societies. Before the Supreme Court closed the landmark Roe v. Wade, SB8 has imposed a six-week limit on women being able to legally have an abortion, a time when many are not even aware they are pregnant. But after the highest court ruled, local lawmakers and Attorney General Ken Paxton said abortion is completely illegal in the state. A lower court contested the decision, and shortly afterward, the state Supreme Court overturned the order. Texas is a wasteland for women seeking an abortion.

As a result, more clinics closed their doors and others decided to move their operations to neighboring states, such as New Mexico, where abortion is legal.

This is how the right to abortion was maintained in the United States after the Supreme Court’s decision:

“These laws are not designed to make sense”

The Doctor. Bhavik Kumar, who ran the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, is not surprised to hear stories like Carla’s. “When we have politicians legislating how we should do medicine, especially when you have to decide whether or not a woman needs an abortion, you add to the complexity of how we can provide health care,” he says.

Among his colleagues, he has heard stories similar to those of the doctor who treated Carla: that They don’t know what they can do and what they can’t. or what options they can offer patients, whether they can give prescriptions or medications, not even whether they can perform abortions. “These laws are not made to make sense, they are not made based on medicine or thinking about what is best for our patients. (…) And those who provide this type of service are not used to interpreting illogical laws like this (…) Now they are worried about the consequences, such as losing their license, being fined, going to jail, facing demands “.

Kumar fears that after the decision of the STF, which endorsed “the interference of politicians in the clinics”, there will be more restrictions on other rights. “It’s very unfortunate because there are people suffering in the midst of all this.”

On social media, other Texas doctors have reported other effects of SB8. Fertility specialist Amy Schutt wrote on her Twitter account in May that she knew of doctors who were denied prescriptions by state pharmacies to treat ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages: “And why? pharmacists are terrified of being criminalized. This is not a simulacrum. It is the danger that politicians have severed the private relationship between a doctor and his patient. Let me be clear: these politicians are not pro-life.” he wrote. “More women will experience complications and die from abnormal and poorly managed pregnancies because access to good medicines is obstructed.”

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Univision Noticias consulted the hospital where Carla is treated about the protocol they follow to approve an abortion, but the response was: “We have no comment”.

Fear is widespread among experts, as SB8 states that anyone can sue anyone who facilitates or motivates a woman to have an abortion, and if the claim is successful, the defendant must pay at least $10,000 for each abortion than “take away or induce”.

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Carla wants to have a second child. For nine months she sought him without protection. She thought it would happen to her like other friends, that after having the first one, the second would arrive without much effort, and no. He then reverted to the same method with which he conceived his firstborn, who is now two and a half years old. After the first round of intrauterine insemination (IUI), she had a miscarriage. She kept trying hopefully. But after her recent experience after the third round of IUI, she is afraid to keep looking, that the pregnancy will not progress and she will have to face another loss. With her husband, they have already put on the table – and in the family budget – the possibility of having to seek medical care in another state.

“When you are having an abortion, the pain is strong, with cramps, as if you were in labor. There is a headache, profuse bleeding”, recalls Carla. “It’s a difficult decision for any mother, a process that involves decisions and where you need someone to take your health and your life in their hands, you’re not asking for anything else.”

That’s why, for her, politicians decided for her without understanding the trauma experienced by a woman who comes to abortion, from mothers like her, who want to have more children and lose them along the way, to those who get pregnant after rape. or simply because her contraceptive method failed: “The perception of these laws is that women are crazy and can’t be like that, aborting. As if women who have abortions are taking this decision lightly. Nobody going through a miscarriage is walking around and feeling like a party.”

For her, legislators and magistrates did not review the scientific data or listen to the doctors: “Ignorant people made the decision for me and for all women. They don’t understand anything. They say: ‘This is my religious belief, I bring this to the my job and I make that decision.’ I don’t bring my religious beliefs to work, but they do and they use them to decide other people’s futures.”


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