This is what it’s like when you don’t have the right to make your own personal medical decisions. Marlena Stell recently shared her story of what it’s like to have a miscarriage in Texas, where new abortion laws have doctors and hospitals making medical decisions based in fear instead of in the best interests of their patients.
The 41-year-old woman was devastated to learn that her much-wanted baby did not have a heartbeat when she went in for her 9-week ultrasound appointment. And then, on top of losing her baby, she learned that her doctor wouldn’t perform a routine dilation and curettage (commonly known as a D&C) until they had further proof that the baby wasn’t viable. Stell was forced to carry the fetus for two weeks and undergo two invasive ultrasounds — and her doctor still wouldn’t perform the procedure. She then had to locate a doctor who would perform the procedure, all while mourning her loss, dealing with severe pain, and just wishing she could grieve and move on.
And now, with Roe v. Wade overturned, millions more people will be subjected to these laws and conditions, at the risk of their health and their lives.
Snell shared her story on YouTube as well as on CNN.
“I get so angry that I was treated this way because of laws that were passed by men who have never been pregnant and never will be,” Stell said in her video.
Carrying an unviable fetus is not only an emotional burden, it can literally be dangerous to a mother’s health as well as her reproductive system. In that two week period, Stell faced the possibility that she could suffer an infection that made it impossible to have another baby or that was fatal.
“The pain would get so severe, it would be hard to walk,” She said.
Even with these risks, many medical professionals in Texas and other states with restrictive abortion laws won’t do procedures that are not only commonplace but life-saving before the laws. The reason? Even if they are sure that they are doing the right thing, they could be turned in to the authorities by anyone who finds out, facing huge penalties and consequences if they lose the case and facing lost time and legal fees even if they win. And there’s a $10,000 incentive for turning in medical professionals who break abortion laws.
“Any private citizen can walk into court and say ‘I think Dr. Smith performed an abortion,’” Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, told CNN.
Stell is far from alone. Another woman, who wished to remain anonymous, shared her story with The New York Times. Before the new Texas laws, she suffered a miscarriage, had a D&C, and returned home safely and without complication. But eight months later, after the abortion laws were enacted, the experience of her second miscarriage was extremely different, even though she was at the same hospital. She was left alone to miscarry, through excruciating pain and blood loss. The option of a D&C was never mentioned.
She said she put fingernail marks in her wall from the pain.
“The bathtub water is just dark red,” the Dallas woman told NYT. “For 48 hours, it was like a constant heavy bleed and big clots. It was so different from my first experience where they were so nice and so comforting, to now just feeling alone and terrified.”
These medical decisions based in fear of the law have real consequences. In a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology this month, researchers followed 28 women with high-risk pregnancies who were less than 23 weeks along. They found that because Texas doctors were delaying life-saving abortions, 60% of the women suffered severe complications — twice as many as in states where abortion is legal. And only one of eight babies who made it to live birth survived, and only then with severe complications.
Both women in Texas who shared their stories say that they will no longer try for a baby as long as they do not have reproductive freedoms where they live.
“We are not going to try and conceive anymore,” the second woman told the NYT. “We don’t feel like it’s safe in Texas to continue to try after what we went through.”