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With Roe overturned, health care nightmares become real

These aren’t theoretical nightmares; these are experiences Americans are being forced to endure right now because Roe v. Wade was overturned.


For years, advocates of reproductive health care warned of dire consequences if Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices overturned Roe v. Wade. Many on the right dismissed such talk as political fearmongering, insisting that the nightmarish scenarios were little more than scare tactics.

Now we know better. The Associated Press reported over the weekend:

A sexual assault survivor chooses sterilization so that if she is ever attacked again, she won’t be forced to give birth to a rapist’s baby. An obstetrician delays inducing a miscarriage until a woman with severe pregnancy complications seems “sick enough.” A lupus patient must stop taking medication that controls her illness because it can also cause miscarriages. Abortion restrictions in a number of states and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade are having profound repercussions in reproductive medicine as well as in other areas of medical care.

It hasn’t quite been a month since Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was handed down, and already the gut-wrenching stories are piling up.

The Washington Post highlighted one woman with a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy who had to seek emergency care in a different state because a local doctor thought Republican-imposed restrictions would’ve made it illegal to treat her — even though the pregnancy would’ve killed her, and even though the pregnancy wasn’t viable.

The same article reported on a Wisconsin woman who bled for more than 10 days from an incomplete miscarriage after emergency room staff were afraid that removing fetal tissue would be against state law.

The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge reported on a woman whose water broke after 16 weeks of pregnancy. Her doctor wanted to perform a type of abortion procedure to remove the nonviable fetus, but an attorney said this might also be illegal.

The article added that according to an affidavit filed by the doctor, 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 ultimately hemorrhaged nearly a liter of blood.

The New York Times reported on a Texas woman who went to the hospital for a first-trimester miscarriage and requested a surgical evacuation procedure. The hospital reportedly refused.

Amanda said the hospital didn’t mention the abortion law, but sent her home with instructions to return only if she was bleeding so excessively that her blood filled a diaper more than once an hour.... Once home, Amanda said, she sat on the toilet digging “fingernail marks in my wall” from the pain. She then moved to the bathtub, where her husband held her hand as they both cried. “The bathtub water is just dark red,” Amanda recalled. “For 48 hours, it was like a constant heavy bleed and big clots.”

The Associated Press’ report noted two Ohio women who had ectopic pregnancies — which, again, can be life-threatening and which are by definition nonviable — and were told by their doctors that they could not receive treatment.

The AP also spoke to Dr. Jessian Munoz, an OB-GYN in San Antonio, about a recent patient who’d started to miscarry and developed a dangerous womb infection. The standard treatment would’ve been an immediate abortion, but that was no longer a legal option in the state.

“We physically watched her get sicker and sicker and sicker” until the fetal heartbeat stopped the next day, “and then we could intervene,” the doctor 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.”

And they were essentially 24 hours behind because of a Republican-imposed health care restrictions.

It’s impossible to say how many other incidents like these have occurred elsewhere in the United States in recent weeks; these are just a sampling of those that came to the attention of news organizations thanks to on-the-record disclosures. It seems quite likely there are many, many more.

What’s more, these practical consequences will continue to unfold, all the time, in states nationwide. These aren’t theoretical nightmares; these are experiences Americans are being forced to endure right now.

As for the kind of policy relief health care providers are looking for, be sure to check out Rachel’s coverage from last night.