A. first realized she was pregnant roughly four weeks into her pregnancy. She had stopped using hormonal birth control because of its “insane” side effects, and instead tried to rely on a fertility awareness-based birth control method.It didn’t work. Normally an avid gym-goer who wakes up at 5 a.m. to work out, A. said she started to struggle to get out of bed. Her breasts felt tender. When her pregnancy test turned out positive, A. said that she booked an appointment for an abortion that same day.“I don't think we are ready financially at all for the cost of giving birth, the cost of daycare, the cost of the child care,” A. said. “We also have long-term plans to move abroad, to move to another country, and other things that are incredibly difficult to do with any child and would be a lot more difficult if we had a kid right now.”
A.’s doctor told her that they could not immediately deal with that tissue—tissue that, if left in A.’s body, could send her into deadly sepsis or lead her to hemorrhage.
Medication abortion is generally safe and effective. One 2013 study, which examined how nearly 50,000 women responded to medication abortions, found that only about 5 percent of medication abortions failed. (Typically, failure meant that the patient needed surgery to complete the abortion.) The study also found that only 119 women ended up hospitalized, with 45 receiving blood transfusions. In other words, the risks are minimal, but they exist. And A., it turned out, was among the people for whom the risks became all too real.After the abortion, A. went to her usual OB-GYN, Dr. Jill Masana. She wanted to double-check that her abortion had worked and get back on more reliable birth control. Initially, A. said, she told Masana that she’d had a miscarriage, because she worried that she could jeopardize her doctor’s license by revealing the truth.
“I can barely do my laundry,” A. added. “I don’t think I should really be taking care of a child.”
In reporting this story, VICE News spoke to multiple physicians who shared outlines of patients’ stories and encouraged patients to reach out to VICE News on their own. Some doctors told VICE News that they feel like they are expected to simply watch patients edge closer and closer to death—and once they prove a condition is serious enough that they won’t be liable for helping, grab them back from it.“We’re waiting for patients to get sick, or get sicker, to be sick enough as to be able to intervene,” said Dr. Tani Malhotra, a maternal fetal medicine specialist in Ohio, who did not treat A. In Ohio, abortion is banned as early as six weeks into pregnancy, unless it’s necessary to “prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
“We’re waiting for patients to get sick, or get sicker, to be sick enough as to be able to intervene.”
Ultimately, A. said that Masana was able to determine that her pregnancy was not viable, clearing the way for her to have a procedure to remove the rest of the tissue. As she waited for word on the pregnancy’s viability and then for the procedure itself, A. said she bled heavily, leaving her lethargic and feeling unable to move on with her life. She watched romantic movies, like When Harry Met Sally and the Netflix drama Purple Hearts, to distract herself. She bled through a box of 20 pads in a week.“It's hard when you're on hold and then you also, at the same time, are trying to get to where you're going to receive care,” A. said. “I'm truly relieved and excited to know that I can receive care and that I can move forward with finding and having care nearby instead of having to go across state lines.”The day of the procedure, A. said, she learned she had lost so much blood that she’d become anemic. Within a few days of the procedure, however, she felt much better, both physically and emotionally.“I’m right as rain. I feel great. It feels kind of like a dream, the whole thing,” she told VICE News. But, A. added, “It was a really intense experience, and I don’t know if I’m really recovered from it yet.”As a woman with a supportive family, a partner who was willing to split the cost of the abortion, and a job flexible enough to accommodate her medical needs, A. said that she likely had an easier experience than most people confronting an unwanted pregnancy and all its possible complications. She felt educated enough to advocate for herself and her healthcare. But all of those privileges still weren’t enough to shield her from the fallout of the end of Roe v. Wade.“It's the first time in my life I was denied care by a medical professional, and that is arguably one of the most traumatic things a woman will ever go through,” A. said. “I'm really angry, I think is the best way to put it. I have this fury and rage towards the systems that have created such a horrible situation.”Follow Carter Sherman on Twitter.
“I'm really angry, I think is the best way to put it. I have this fury and rage towards the systems that have created such a horrible situation.”