NPR has its faults, but they’ve been better than lots of national media outlets about covering the effect extreme anti-abortion laws have on women’s healthcare. Here’s a link to an All Things Considered story about what happened to Kaitlyn Joshua, a 30-year-old who found out she was pregnant in August. Joshua and her husband were excited about having a second child, and she tried to make a prenatal care appointment at the 8-week mark, as she had with her first child.
The doctor’s office staff told her they didn’t offer appointments that early. Joshua says the staff member she talked to confirmed Joshua’s suspicion that the office was seeing patients only after 12 weeks because miscarriages are more common in the early weeks and they wanted to avoid an investigation under Louisiana’s new draconian anti-abortion laws. Then Joshua was forced to seek care early anyway.
During those early weeks of pregnancy, Joshua experienced symptoms she hadn’t dealt with in her first pregnancy: mild cramping and spotting. Without access to a doctor, though, Joshua felt like she had nowhere to go for answers.
“How in the world can we have a viable health care system for women, especially women of color, when they won’t even see you for 12 weeks?” she says.
Joshua sought care at an ER, where she was told the fetus wasn’t growing normally, but no one would confirm she was having a miscarriage, again seemingly to avoid liability exposure.
Joshua remembers one nurse telling her: “‘It appears that you could be having one. But we don’t want to say that’s what it is. So let’s just keep watching it. You can continue to come back. Of course, we’re praying for you.'”
Joshua is Christian. She spends Sunday mornings at church. But she says the comment felt like an insult.
“Folks need answers, not prayers. And that’s exactly what I was looking for in that moment,” she says.
The thoughts and prayers for Joshua proved as efficacious as they are in the aftermath of mass shootings; her condition deteriorated, so she attempted to get answers and healthcare at another hospital. Again she was told to go suffer at home, which she also suspects was due to the facility prioritizing liability management over healthcare delivery.
Eventually Joshua did miscarry at home after needlessly suffering excruciating pain and copious bleeding. She and her husband decided they aren’t in the right time and place to try to expand their family since hospitals and doctors are afraid of getting sued and/or jailed by the Louisiana morality police if they provide what used to be standard reproductive healthcare.
The healthcare providers and facility execs all deny that the new anti-abortion laws played a role in the decisions they made during Joshua’s treatment. Medical professionals in states where women’s healthcare isn’t strictly supervised by morality police have a more nuanced take:
OB-GYN Villavicencio, who leads equity efforts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says doctors have been delaying or declining care in many states with abortion bans.
“Not because doctors are inappropriate or bad people, but because they’re confused about what they can and cannot do,” she says. “And they’re also scared about what the consequences may be if they break these extremely confusing laws.”
Well yeah. In Louisiana, doctors can be jailed for up to 15 years, fined up to $200,000 and lose their medical license if convicted of performing an abortion, and the definition of “abortion” in the law is confusing.
It makes you wonder how many healthcare providers will stick around in states where medical care standards are being overhauled by religious fanatics. Doctors and nurses have highly marketable skills, so they don’t strictly have to put up with that bullshit. The same could be said of young professionals like the Joshuas, who already have a four-year-old daughter.
People have all kinds of reasons for living where they live, including family ties. I know this firsthand. But it’s easy to understand why folks who have other options and priorities might choose to move out of states where religious fanatics can force half the population to receive substandard healthcare.
Anyway, good on NPR for showcasing these stories. Open thread.