The wave of extreme new anti-abortion laws making all abortions illegal after 6 weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest, threaten to take away your right to make your own decisions about your reproductive health and endanger your life.
When Ohio ICU nurse Chelsea McIntosh, 26, found out that she was pregnant last fall, she was absolutely thrilled, but nervous, and so was her husband. She had heartbreakingly suffered a miscarriage just a few months earlier and her greatest fear was that something would go wrong again.
When she began spotting at 10 weeks pregnant, she couldn’t help but be worried, however weekly sonograms appeared to show that everything was fine. It was only when she was heading into her 2nd trimester and the bleeding began to get heavier that she begged to have the fetus genetically tested to see if something was seriously wrong. The results were devastating. Her fetus suffered from a condition called Triploidy, in which it had three copies of every chromosome, instead of the normal, two.
“It is always lethal,” Chelsea later testified in front of the Ohio Legislature, which was about to enact a ban on abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy with a so called “Heartbeat Bill.” “Most babies with Triploidy are miscarried early on and if they are carried to term they are typically stillborn or die within their first minutes of life,” she told the legislators.
For Chelsea, it was the worst possible news — all that she had feared since she had first learned that she was pregnant again. “Essentially (babies with Triploidy) suffocate when they are born because …. the lungs don’t develop, so essentially they can’t breathe outside the womb, she said in an exclusive interview with Hollywoodlife. Chelsea was adamant that she wasn’t “going to let any level of suffering happen to this baby for no reason.”
On top of that, her obstetrician explained that if she continued the pregnancy carrying a baby with Triploidy, she would be at a higher risk of getting a cancer that develops in abnormal pregnancies — Choriocarcinoma — and that as well, she was at risk of also developing pre-eclampsia — dangerously high blood pressure which could cause seizures and permanent damage to her kidneys and liver.
The reason for this was “because typically the placenta is abnormal in addition to the fetus, in a pregnancy like this, and that’s why it could lead to cancer,” Chelsea explained. Faced with this catastrophic news and realizing that her dream of having a living baby was hopeless for the time being, Chelsea who was by then 16 weeks pregnant made the only decision she felt she could have — she had an abortion. Something she would no longer be able to do in Ohio if the state’s new ‘Heartbeat Bill’, signed into law on April 12th by the Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, is not struck down as unconstitutional by the courts. Ohio’s “Human Rights Protection Act,” outlaws abortions once the fetus has a heartbeat, typically around 6 weeks and has no exceptions for rape or incest.
Chelsea thinks it’s just plain wrong that women who are already experiencing tragedy would be prevented from having an abortion in Ohio and thinks it’s ridiculous that a baby’s ‘heart beat’ is being used as an indicator of viability. “My baby always had great heartbeats… but that pregnancy was not viable in any shape or form.”
But she feels that any woman should be able to make her own decision with her doctor about whether or not to have an abortion — that it shouldn’t be politicians. “What I’ve heard a lot from the anti-choice side too is that it makes it seem like we can’t make informed educated decisions about our own bodies and lives — I’m certainly capable of making a choice for myself.”
As for the idea that a heartbeat is being defined legally as the defining point of ‘life’ for a fetus, by politicians, it makes no medical sense, according to Dr Anita Somani, an obstetrician/gynecologist who has practiced in Ohio for 26 years.’ The reality is that a six-week fetus, is the size of a pea. And when you think about viability of a fetus outside of the mother- that honestly doesn’t happen until about 24-26 weeks,’ she tells Hollywoodlife. ‘A heartbeat should not be considered the standard of viability…or of life.’ She points out that a person can be brain dead and still have a heartbeat .
Nevertheless, multiple states along with Ohio, have just instituted ‘ heartbeat’ bills that will take away the decision of women to make own choice about whether to continue a pregnancy along with their doctors, at a point when most will not even know they are pregnant.
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp signed a fetal heartbeat bill on May 7th, which bans abortions after a heartbeat in the fetus is detected with exceptions in the cases of rape or incest if a police report has been filed first. Also to prevent “death or serious harm to the mother” or if the pregnancy is deemed “medically futile” ie unlikely to be viable even with medical intervention.
On those points, the Georgia law appears to be slightly better than Ohio’s which provides no exception for victims of rape or incest. HOWEVER, and this is big ,however, Georgia’s bill would charge women who have abortions, with murder, punishable by life imprisonment or even the death penalty. And if a woman left the state to get an abortion, she could still be charged with “conspiracy to commit murder,” punishable by 10 years in prison. If a husband, boyfriend, mother or anyone accompanies her out of state under this law, they would be charged as an “accessory” to murder.
On top of this, women who miscarry would be subject to police interrogation to determine whether they could be held responsible for the miscarriage, and punished with a 10 to 30 year prison sentence.
Are you getting all this? If Georgia’s new anti-abortion law is not struck down by a court and becomes law in January 2020, women who have abortions and even miscarriages, could be charged with murder! This is not ok!
Doctors, nurses and physician assistants who perform abortions in Georgia, could also face up to 10 years in prison. What this means is that women, even those facing serious health risks or even death, like Chelsea McIntosh, if their pregnancy isn’t terminated, would most likely not be able to get an abortion in Georgia, period, according to Barbara Ann Luttrell, the Director of Communications and Marketing for Planned Parenthood Southeast in Georgia. “This puts doctors in an impossible position where they are faced with either treating their patient and doing what they have committed their lives to doing, or they protect themselves instead and potentially let patients die,” points out Barbara Ann. “Ultimately, doctors are not going to be willing to make those kind of decisions, so doctors will not want to practice medicine in Georgia, which already faces an extreme physician shortage.”
Just think about it — pregnant women in Georgia could die if a doctor is too afraid to perform a lifesaving abortion. And yes, these circumstances can happen for any number of reasons including if a woman has a second trimester miscarriage that doesn’t expel the fetus. This happened famously to dentist Savita Halappanavar, who was just 31 and living in Ireland in 2012. Ireland had a strict anti-abortion law, like the new Georgia law, and although Savita was hospitalized with an infection which developed after she had a miscarriage which wasn’t expelled, doctors fearful of prosecution refused to perform an abortion, despite the young woman’s pleas. She died from sepsis.
That could now happen here, in Georgia. It could also happen in Ohio and in Alabama which just passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country on May 15th. The law bans ALL abortions, with no exception for rape or incest — just again an exception for a ‘serious health risk’ to the mother.
But with the doctors in Alabama now facing 99 years in prison for performing an abortion, you can imagine how frequently that will happen even if a woman’s life is at risk.
‘There’s no grey areas in these laws, just black and white ‘, points out Dr Somani. “There’s no potential for a doctor to say, now, at this point, this woman goes from not in danger, to ‘in danger’ of losing her life. Do you wait until her kidneys are failing before you say, you have to terminate the pregnancy? Or do you wait until the woman has a stroke because her blood pressure is so unreasonably high? Or do you deliver the baby and then they have a postpartum hemorrhage, they bleed and you can’t stop the bleeding and they lose their uterus or they die?
The bottom line with these anti- abortion laws is that more women in America will die in childbirth, says Dr Somani. ‘You will see that our healthcare system will become comparable to countries that are not as developed’. In other words, a maternal death rate equivalent to third world countries. Is that what we want? The US already has far higher maternal death rates than any other developed country in the world and the situation is getting worse. In 2017 there were 26.4 deaths per 100,000 women in childbirth, compared to 3.8 in Finland and 7.3 in Canada. That’s up from 17 per 100,000 in 1990.
Missouri also just passed an 8 week abortion ban on May 16 with no exceptions for rape or incest and doctors will face up to 15 years in prison for performing an abortion.
Now, granted none of these bills is the law of the land yet, in any of these states, but all of these states want the Supreme Court to take up their legislation and use it to overturn the landmark 1973 case, Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal throughout the US.
With Donald Trump — who vowed to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, who would overturn Roe v. Wade and who has said that women should be punished for abortions — anti abortion politicians across the country, are emboldened and enthusiastic about making abortion illegal again. And that means that you and millions and millions of women could lose your right to make the decision about whether you will have a baby if you get pregnant accidentally, run into a health issue while pregnant, are carrying a fetus with genetic defects or with very serious health issues, or even if you have been raped or are a victim of incest.
Are you ready to give up your right to make your own decision about your own body and health?
As Chelsea McIntosh says: “I can’t imagine if (I hadn’t been able to get an abortion) that I’d have to leave my house everyday and have people ask me questions about being pregnant — like when the baby was due. It would have been too upsetting to have to put on a brave face and pretend that everything’s ok or to actually say — this baby isn’t coming home. I can honestly say, that would have been untenable.”