Democratic lawmakers were unsuccessful in their attempt this month to pass legislation that would protect abortion rights in this county. The move was a valiant but futile response to a draft leaked to POLITICO indicating the Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade, perhaps as soon as this June.
When that expected announcement comes, things will happen quickly – 13 states have already passed so-called “trigger laws,” abortion bans that will go into effect immediately. Other states are poised to enact new laws or step-up enforcement of existing laws. In a relatively short time, more than half of the states could have laws that either ban or greatly restrict access to abortions.
Those actions will affect not only people seeking abortions, but also many people in need of other medical treatments – all of whom will suffer because of some overzealous and ill-informed politicians and their feverish obsession with controlling women and dictating what they can do with their own bodies.
Most of these laws are being pushed predominantly by male lawmakers, many of whom don’t seem to understand simple basic fundamentals of anatomy, conception, and pregnancy. For example, there’s the Republican Ohio state representative John Becker who suggested the law should require that ectopic pregnancies be reimplanted into the uterus, which is medically impossible.
When lawmakers try to regulate medical decisions, it’s a very slippery slope, and I believe we’ll go careening down it at lightning speed once the cycle is set into motion.
I can easily envision some of the resulting scenarios, based on my own firsthand experience.
Years ago, I needed urgent treatment for an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. If it ruptures, it can cause internal bleeding, which can be fatal. Contrary to what Becker seemed to believe, an ectopic pregnancy cannot be implanted elsewhere or otherwise saved – it’s not a viable pregnancy. There are two treatment options: Medication or surgery. Time is of the essence, because you want to treat this quickly with medication before the tube can rupture and create a potentially deadly situation.
At that time, our town’s only hospital was a Catholic hospital, and there were an assortment of medications and medical procedures that they either refused to provide at all, or provided on very limited occasions, usually after forcing you to go through so much additional hassle that patients often either gave up or went to a different hospital.
For example, you could not get your tubes tied (tubal ligation), even if your doctor recommended it – and even if you were already getting a C-section, when this added procedure could easily be done in a matter of minutes, with no additional incisions or recovery time involved. Instead, you would need to recover from your C-section and then go to a different hospital to have a tubal ligation, which would mean two separate surgeries, meaning double the risk plus the added recovery time and extra medical bills involved.
The hospital would perform some hysterectomies, but only after requiring the patient and their doctor to jump through a bunch of hoops to prove to their satisfaction that it was medically necessary.
By the way, it was also common practice for hospitals in this area to require the written permission of a woman’s husband before she could get a tubal ligation or hysterectomy. Yet another example of the misogynistic quest to control women’s bodies, and a practice I fear will reemerge in this tidal wave of actions towards that goal.
The medication typically prescribed to treat an ectopic pregnancy is methotrexate. My local hospital opposed the use of that drug in a situation involving pregnancy – any type of pregnancy – because they viewed it as “an abortion drug.” They delayed my treatment so long that my doctor sent me to another hospital out of town, where fortunately I was able to receive treatment in time to avoid a life-threatening emergency.
Methotrexate is in fact often used (typically in combination with misoprostol) to induce a medical abortion. But as numerous doctors and other professionals – who, unlike the clueless male lawmakers, have actual knowledge and expertise in this area – have pointed out, the treatments for ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and abortion are often identical.
I’ve been given one of those drugs at least one other time, after I’d experienced a partial miscarriage. I’ve also had a surgical procedure known as a D&C several times, at least once after a miscarriage. All of these treatments could be targeted in anti-abortion laws, especially since the wording in these laws is often so vague that there’s a lot of room for confusion or misinterpretation – or deliberately biased interpretation. In the case of ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages, medical providers may be so fearful of being prosecuted under new anti-choice laws that they could become leery of prescribing routine and necessary treatment.
Any anti-abortion measures will be especially harmful – and deadly – to women of color, who already face racial discrimination when seeking medical treatment. One study estimated that banning abortion overall would lead to a 21 percent increase in pregnancy-related deaths overall, and a 33 percent increase among Black women.
Even when laws make exceptions for medical situations that put the mother’s life at risk, the burden is often placed on the patient or their doctor to prove this justification, creating additional stress and wasting time needlessly. And in cases where a pregnancy is planned and celebrated – and a baby desperately wanted – forcing a parent to prove that miscarriage treatment or an abortion is medically warranted rather than something they caused is unnecessarily cruel and traumatic.
To be clear, I believe these medical treatments should be available to everyone, regardless of the circumstances or reasons. The access to safe and legal abortions is a right that every U.S. citizen should have. Healthcare decisions should be between the patient and their doctor and are nobody else’s business – and especially not within the purview of lawmakers who have clearly demonstrated an embarrassing lack of understanding of the concepts (and body parts) involved. I’m simply using my own experiences to illustrate the Pandora’s box that lawmakers open when they attempt to venture into territory where they don’t belong, trying to regulate things they don’t understand. Their actions have intended and unintended consequences even the lawmakers themselves may not anticipate.
This is just one of many reasons why it’s crucial that we choose lawmakers who recognize our ability to make our own healthcare decisions and who respect our right to have autonomy over our own bodies.