Every day brings new evidence of the disaster wrought by the U.S. Supreme Court’s religio-political end to women’s medical autonomy in the reversal of Roe v. Wade, particularly in extremist states like Arkansas with near absolute abortion bans.
One problem is the difficulty now existing for where future doctors may train to be obstetricians and if that training will be comprehensive if state institutions are unable to provide instruction in abortion. Abortion is a necessity for some problem pregnancies, including spontaneous miscarriages.
— Jill Zeman Bleed (@jzbleed) October 19, 2022
There are heart-breaking (and life-threatening) stories of women facing medical emergencies in states where doctors fear acting because of legal liability.
Another heartbreaking story of a Texas woman forced to develop life-threatening sepsis before doctors could legally terminate her failed pregnancy. The brutal yet entirely predictable result of abortion bans. https://t.co/O4br4jOULO pic.twitter.com/zVXTH02gcH
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) October 18, 2022
There’s even a debate about what “abortion” means. As the New York Times reports, anti-abortion forces are trying to invent euphemisms and excuses for needed abortions or coming up with workarounds that don’t exist in states like Arkansas.
Major medical societies, and medical billing codes, define abortion as any procedure that terminates a pregnancy — whether that pregnancy is wanted or unwanted, whether a woman is seeking the procedure to clean out her uterus after a miscarriage, or because of a dire fetal diagnosis, or to terminate a pregnancy that she had not expected.
“An abortion is an abortion is an abortion,” said Dr. Louise King, an obstetrician-gynecologist and bioethicist at Harvard Medical School.
Anti-abortion lawmakers and groups disagree, arguing that it’s an abortion only if the woman or her medical provider elects to end the pregnancy. This generally means that terminating a pregnancy in a dire medical situation is acceptable, while terminating an unwanted pregnancy is not.
This is, of course, sophistryd. Vague laws force doctors to make decisions contrary to what might be best for a patient.
Anti-abortion politicians in Louisiana faced outrage in August when a hospital denied an abortion to a woman carrying a fetus that doctors said would be born without a skull. One of the state’s three bans allowed abortion to end “medically futile” pregnancies. But the fetus’s condition, acrania, was not specifically included on a list of exceptions allowed under the law.
Anti-abortion politicians tried to claim the abortion this woman obtained in New York to end her pregnancy was a “medical procedure,” not an abortion. In the case of the abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio, another anti-abortionist said the rape and pregnancy would impact her life and thus was an exception to the state ban.
You have to search hard for any margin of protection for women in Arkansas’s near-total ban.
Abortion is allowed to remove a dead fetus or end an ectopic pregnancy. Otherwise, abortion is allowed only “to preserve the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”
Only to “preserve life.” How many angels can dance on the head of that pin? The New York Times article commented:
Most laws allow for exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman. But uncertainty about what qualifies as life-threatening has resulted in what the president of the American Medical Association called “chaos,” as medical professionals try to decide what conditions fall under those exceptions. Women are being denied abortions for miscarriages and to end pregnancies that have little or no chance of survival, or left to become sicker before they can have an abortion deemed to be lifesaving.
Arkansas, as Attorney General Leslie Rutledge proudly proclaims, is the most “pro-life” state in the country. That means it has law so unforgiving that women will die or be gravely injured or be forced to travel great distances at great expense to end a dangerous pregnancy, including one with a fetus unlikely to survive.