With the Texas law the Supreme Court used to effectively overrule Roe with an unreasoned opinion issued at midnight being particularly fiendish:
Elizabeth stood up to get some lunch. That’s when she felt something “shift” in her uterus, down low, and then “this burst of water just falls out of my body. And I screamed because that’s when I knew something wrong was happening.”
Her waters had broken, launching her into what she calls a “dystopian nightmare” of “physical, emotional and mental anguish.” She places the blame for the ensuing medical trauma on the Republican legislators who passed the state’s anti-abortion law, on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed it, and on the inflamed political rhetoric, which Elizabeth says only sees abortion “as one thing, a black-and-white issue, when abortion has all of these gray areas.”
The crisis the Wellers endured is emblematic of the vast and perhaps unintended medical impacts of the criminalization of abortion in Republican-led states. The new abortion bans — or the old laws being resurrected in a post-Roe world — are rigidly written and untested in the courts. Many offer no exemptions for rape, incest or fetal anomolies.
But the most confusing development involves the exemptions that exist for the woman’s life or health, or because of a “medical emergency.” These terms are left vague or undefined.
The result has been disarray and confusion for doctors and hospitals in multiple states, and risky delays and complications for patients facing obstetrical conditions such as ectopic pregnancies, incomplete miscarriages, placental problems, and premature rupture of membanes.
After talking with James, they both agreed they should end the pregnancy. The risks to Elizabeth’s health were simply too high.
To Elizabeth, termination also felt like the most merciful option for her fetus. Even with the slim chance of survival to 24 weeks, the newborn would face intense physical challenges and aggressive medical interventions.
“You have to ask yourself, would I put any living thing through the pain, and the horrors, of having to try to fight for their life the minute that they’re born?”
The next day, Elizabeth’s ob-gyn came to the hospital to arrange the procedure. Right away, she ran into obstacles because of the Texas law. A fight began, which Elizabeth first became aware of as her doctor paced the hall outside her room, talking on her phone.
“I remember hearing her, from my room, speaking loudly about how nothing is being done here.”
After one conversation, the doctor returned to her bedside.
“I can tell that she’s been beat down, because she has been trying to fight for me all day, advocating on my behalf,” Elizabeth says. “And she starts to cry and she tells me: ‘They’re not going to touch you.’ And that ‘you can either stay here and wait to get sick where we can monitor you, or we discharge you and you monitor yourself. Or you wait till your baby’s heartbeat stops.'”
It was because of the state law which forbids termination of a pregnancy as long as there is fetal cardiac activity. The law, which still remains in effect, does contain one exception – for a “medical emergency.” But there is no definition for that term in the statute. No one really knows what the legislature means by that, and they are afraid of overstepping.
And it’s not just that the exceptions are vague and doctors have good reason to believe they will not be applied in good faith. In Texas, performing an abortion can be very costly for a doctor even if they are able to show that an abortion was medically necessary:
In other words, even if we all agree that, in a particular case, an abortion was medically necessary, a doctor can *still* be sued in Texas, and will have to pay to defend against the suit (with no recovery), even if it’s a 100% certainty that they are ultimately going to win.— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) July 26, 2022
Things are also awful in Hawley-land:
Missouri residents with ectopic pregnancies must persuade a hospital ethics committee that their condition is sufficiently life-threatening to justify an abortion, even if their fallopian tubes are about to burst. https://t.co/mYSzTuZrXI pic.twitter.com/KVihOv7ym5— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) July 27, 2022
The laws are working as intended.