Friday, April 1, 2016

Stillbirth and the law: Texas edition

Lawmakers, meet some of the people whose lives you have maimed: Taylor Mahaffey, twenty weeks pregnant when this sad story begins:
On Wednesday night, Taylor, 23, felt something abnormal and since their last pregnancy ended in miscarriage, they rushed to the hospital. By the time they got there, Fox’s feet were already pushing through his mother’s cervix. Doctors tried several emergency measures to stop the preterm labor, including putting Taylor on an incline in the hopes that they could perform a cervical cerclage—a procedure in which doctors stitch shut the cervix. Nothing worked. Nothing could save him.
So the doctors induce labor to end everyone's suffering, right? Wrong.. That's what doctors would recommend, that is the standard of care, except when anti-abortion lawmakers get into the act:
 When Taylor started bleeding, they went back to the hospital, but with Fox’s heart still beating, doctors couldn’t legally interfere.
“Eventually she was just screaming at them to get the child out of her,” Daniel said.
After four days in and out of the hospital, the bag of waters surrounding their baby burst and Taylor delivered Fox. “One nice thing is we got to hold him,” Daniel said. “That’s the only silver lining.”
Texas is one of 12 states that bans abortions after 20 weeks post fertilization with bills ostensibly based on the wholly unscientific idea that fetuses can feel pain after that period of gestation. (A review of the evidence by the American Medical Association found that “fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”) The Texas ban was passed as a provision in HB2, the 2013 law best known for requiring abortion clinics to meet the same strict standards as ambulatory surgical centers and providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals—restrictions that have closed half of the state’s abortion clinics and over which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments this month.
The Texas law does come with exemptions, for cases where a woman’s life or physical health is in danger or when severe fetal abnormalities are present, conditions that the Mahaffeys did not satisfy.
The Mahaffeys aren’t the only people arguing that bans on later abortions have a cruel real-world impact, come between patients and doctors, and add insult to injury for grieving families.
Last October, a 22-weeks pregnant Ohio woman traveled 300 miles to Chicago to abort a dying fetus when the Planned Parenthood in her home state wouldn’t perform the procedure.
In 2010 in Nebraska, Danielle Deaver came forward to say her state, the first in the nation to enact fetal-pain legislation, barred her doctors from inducing labor at 20 weeks, making her wait 10 days as her uterus slowly crushed her much-wanted baby, who survived only 15 minutes outside the womb.
I guess these lawmakers figure that their anti-abortion piety confers special expertise over medical matters, a total fantasy on their parts. What is not a fantasy is the enormity of suffering their arrogant stupidity is causing around the country.  

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