My last post detailed a case in which a young woman with a serious heart condition required a pregnancy termination for medical reasons. She ended up at the State hospital because they offer “free care.” Many of you know that the idea of “free care” at a State hospital is unfortunately a common belief, but simply not the case. State hospitals have budgets and are no longer the safety net for the uninsured.

Pregnant women with serious medical conditions may find themselves in an even greater bind as anti-choice laws have increasingly targeted state hospitals (see recent events in Kansas and Arizona). Why single out state hospitals for anti-choice legislation? Well, reducing/eliminating abortions at state hospitals affects education as these hospitals are typically teaching facilities, so with little to no access to abortion training these politicians hope the number of providers in the state will dwindle over time. They like to tell their constituents, “This is part of our message, that abortion providers are not welcome here.”  As these lawmakers are largely motivated by anti-choice vocalizations and chest thumping, I think the easy pickings of anti-choice legislation against a state facility is the prime motivation. It’s a chip shot in a GOP controlled state and often neglected in the news because it’s buried in a state budget, so not a direct challenge to Roe. Oh, and I bet this kind of legislation helps to loosen campaign dollars.

Many people commented in disbelief, wondering why a politician might have to be contacted to determine “life or death?” But you see, the law was so obviously written by someone with no knowledge of the myriad of ways that a pregnancy can affect the health of a woman that no physician (or even lawyer, for that matter) could interpret the spirit of the law (besides, you know, misogyny). Is it reasonable chance of death in 30 minutes? 3 hours? 3 days? 3 weeks? How certain does death have to be? A 50% chance? A 25% chance of death, I mean that’s not certain, but pretty fucking high if you ask me.

You might think a politician deciding life or death is the worst thing possible (and seem suspiciously like a death panel and the biggest ego trip ever rolled into one). And I’ll admit, it’s pretty bad.

You might think a politician with no medical knowledge writing laws that interfere with your medical care to be pretty terrible. And yes, it’s pretty counter productive to good health.

You also might think that the worst thing about my post is that it’s not a single case, but a compilation of several. Well, that’s pretty bad too.

But to me, the worst thing about my post on a politician deciding on the definition of life or death when it comes to abortion access at a state hospital is that the law that allowed this to happen has been on the books now for at least 10 years. And the state political party that wrote and passed the law has been elected at least twice in the intervening time.

Why bother with the Supreme Court and Roe at all if you can win the battle far easier at the state level?

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  1. Jen, this is such a hard topic to swallow. Politicians deciding the acceptable level of risk is simply horrific. Assessing the risk/benefit of medical procedures on a patient should rest with those that actually have the knowledge and skills to do so. As you know, the FDA in charge of approving drugs have such a rigid process of evaluating benefits and acceptable levels of side-effects. If a drug’s chance of causing serious side-effects and potentially death in a relatively healthy patient was at 25% there is no way it would ever be allowed. Not living in the US I’d be interested in how women perceive the changes?

  2. You said that Kansas and Arizona have passed such state laws about state hospitals; where else? I’m not a medical professional, so I looked up post-partum cardiomyopathy, and read (to my horror) that I probably had that in the early 1980s. I did not want a second child after the difficulties I had, but the only suggestion I received from doctors was to “take a cruise.” A quick EKG did not show the problem, but a 24 hour Holter monitor showed lots of skipping heartbeats: this showed up a year after my baby was delivered, along with general allergies to grains, insects, and inflammation. But I was a young, “healthy” woman in my 20s then, and even though I needed so much sleep, and had so much trouble breathing, and had chest pain, I must have had a good imagination. Very slowly, over a couple of years, I regained about half of my former strength. Later on, I found out that I have some other inflammatory issues (though no markers for RA or lupus), and serious endometriosis with scarring all over my abdomen, bladder, ovaries, uterus, etc. These issues are also not addressed by doctors, and any auto-immune problem can add to pregnancy problems because any tendency to reject something foreign might be triggered by the presence of a fetus, and such problems may show up during pregnancy or afterward.

    So, I really want to know exactly which states have put the one in 1000 to 4000 women who give birth in direct danger of death during their next pregnancy due to heart conditions. Also, while I am not a lawyer either, I would want to know exactly how, what process, is used by politicians in these states to determine which woman will live or die; couldn’t a court determine that women who have heart conditions or other serious medical conditions automatically get a waiver from these laws?

    In order for people to protest, there needs to be exact circumstances; these laws are enough for a protest, but protesters need an exact remedy in order to address the problem.

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