The horrors of the post-Roe era, an endless series
The Alito regime is about turning state violence against pregnant women, even in the most dire circumstances:
Dr. Mack Goldberg, who was trained in abortion care for life-threatening pregnancy complications, pulled up the patient’s charts. He did not like the look of them. The muscle separating her pregnancy from her bladder was as thin as tissue paper; her placenta threatened to eventually invade her organs like a tumor. Even with the best medical care in the world, some patients bleed out in less than 10 minutes on the operating table. Goldberg had seen it happen.
Mayron Michelle Hollis stood to lose her bladder, her uterus and her life. She was desperate to end the pregnancy. On the phone, the two doctors agreed this was the best path forward, guided by recommendations from the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, an association of 5,500 experts on high-risk pregnancy. The longer they waited, the more complicated the procedure would be.
But it was Aug. 24, and performing an abortion was hours away from becoming a felony in Tennessee. There were no explicit exceptions. Prosecutors could choose to charge any doctor who terminated any pregnancy with a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If charged, the doctor would have the burden of proving in front of a judge or jury that the procedure was necessary to save the patient’s life, similar to claiming self-defense in a homicide case.
The doctors didn’t know where to turn to for guidance. There was no institutional process to help them make a final call. Hospitals have malpractice lawyers but do not typically employ criminal lawyers. Even local criminal lawyers weren’t sure what to say — they had no precedent to draw on, and the attorney general and the governor weren’t issuing any clarifications. Under the law, it was possible a prosecutor could argue Hollis’ case wasn’t an immediate emergency, just a potential risk in the future.
That night, Goldberg went home and buried his face into the soft fur of his 100-pound Bernedoodle dog, Louie. He believed strongly that knowing how to perform an abortion was a necessary part of health care; he’d spent two years training in Pittsburgh to have the skills to help people like Hollis. Now he felt like everyone was leaving him alone with the responsibility. He worried about being able to manage that massive bleed alone.
He felt sick when he told Grimm his decision: “It’s too dangerous,” he said.
he heard that lawmakers were considering a change to the abortion law, to make it clear it was not a crime for doctors to provide abortion care in order to prevent life-threatening emergencies. “I’m so glad I have my baby,” she wished she could tell them. “But this was a risk I didn’t have any choice in taking.” She knew others wouldn’t be as lucky. On Tuesday, the state legislature is scheduled to consider bills aimed at creating clear medical exceptions. Tennessee Right to Life has strongly opposed it.
The main reactionary response to cases like this is that similarly situated women can travel to other states, which as the joint dissent observed is incoherent on multiple levels:
The majority tries to hide the geographically expansive effects of its holding. Today’s decision, the majority says, permits “each State” to address abortion as it pleases. That is cold comfort, of course, for the poor woman who cannot get the money to fly to a distant State for a procedure. Above all others, women lacking financial resources will suffer from today’s decision. In any event, interstate restrictions will also soon be in the offing. After this decision, some States may block women from traveling out of State to obtain abortions, or even from receiving abortion medications from out of State. Some may criminalize efforts, including the provision of information or funding, to help women gain access to other States’ abortion services. Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest. If that happens, “the views of [an individual State’s] citizens” will not matter. The challenge for a woman will be to finance a trip not to “New York [or] California” but to Toronto.
“Until we can get a national ban through Congress not every state will be as barbaric as the ones we control” is always an unpersuasive argument and to many women also a useless one.
I strongly recommend reading the whole piece which goes on to demonstrate that Tennessee offers virtually no support to young parents who need it but is willing to provide legal harassment.