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In Florida, reproductive care nightmares become tragically common

Ron DeSantis is ready to pitch a “Make America Florida“ platform. The public should be clear-eyed about what that would mean on abortion rights.


After the lopsided results in last month’s state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin, much of the national conversation about Republicans and abortion rights focused on electoral considerations. I can appreciate why: Voters keep telling GOP officials and candidates that the party is on the wrong side of an important debate, and the party clearly isn’t listening.

But ultimately, what matters most is people. Political impacts are hardly trivial, but nothing is more important than human beings, their bodies, their health, their agency, their dignity, and the real-world consequences of their rights being curtailed.

This simple truth came to mind reading the latest Washington Post report on a devastating story out of Florida about Deborah Dorbert, who was eager to welcome a new baby into her family, and who didn’t have any reason to believe the demise of Roe v. Wade would affect her directly.

Her pregnancy appeared to be entirely normal until “a routine ultrasound halfway through her pregnancy changed all that.”

Deborah and her husband, Lee, learned in late November that their baby had Potter syndrome, a rare and lethal condition that plunged them into an unsettled legal landscape. The state’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of gestation has an exception for fatal fetal abnormalities. But as long as their baby’s heart kept beating, the Dorberts say, doctors would not honor their request to terminate the pregnancy.

The Post’s report added that her physicians and the local hospital declined to comment, but the new anti-abortion law created by Florida Republicans “carries severe penalties, including prison time, for medical practitioners who run afoul of it.”

Dorbert was induced at 37 weeks. After a 12-hour labor, she had a baby, born with no kidneys, whose lungs could not expand. She could hear him “gasping for air.”

He lived for 99 minutes.

“To me it’s just pure torture,” Peter Rogell, the baby’s grandfather, told the Post. “The law has created torture.”

To just state the obvious, reading a report like this is heartbreaking. It is not, however, unfamiliar. Last month, I read a separate Washington Post report about Anya Cook and Shanae Smith-Cunningham, who experienced different reproductive nightmares as a result of Florida’s abortion restrictions.

Two months before that, there was a Miami Herald report about Anabely Lopes, who also wanted a baby, was told her fetus had a fatal birth defect, made the difficult decision to seek an abortion, only to be told she’d have to leave her home state of Florida to receive care.

As part of his soon-to-be-announced Republican presidential campaign, Gov. Ron DeSantis is apparently eager to pitch a “Make America Florida“ platform. The public should be clear-eyed about what that would mean.