In the rush to pass yet another piece of legislation limiting access to pregnancy termination, lawmakers failed to address the complexity of pregnancy. Kentuckians will be dealing with the consequences of these vaguely drafted bills for years.
Some of this vagueness has been slightly humorous — such as if a fetus is a person, does that permit a pregnant person to drive in the HOV lane? Can a parent take a deduction for a dependent before a child breathes?
Others are more serious — how do we establish financial responsibility for the expenses of pregnancy and childbirth for child support purposes? If additional medical expenses are incurred due to delayed treatment, who is responsible for those costs? And perhaps the most critical question: who will decide how dangerous a pregnancy must be in order for doctors to appropriately intervene?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that 26 % of pregnancies end by spontaneous abortion, colloquially referred to as miscarriage. An incomplete miscarriage is treated the same as a voluntary termination. There are already reports of delayed treatment because doctors and hospital lawyers feared medical intervention. A woman bled for 10 days because medical staff was reluctant to remove fetal tissue after her incomplete miscarriage. A Texas woman had to wait until her discharge was foul enough to make her retch before a hospital would remove the infected fetal tissue. These delays are emotionally and physically traumatizing and cause unnecessary complications and avoidable medical treatments and charges.
An ectopic pregnancy implants outside the womb and is never viable. Untreated, it may render a person infertile or kill them.
Already, women have been denied treatment until the electrical activity erroneously described as a “heartbeat” has stopped. This is an unnecessary risk to the mother’s life and health for the sake of an inviable pregnancy.
Many people suffer from health conditions that require medication incompatible with pregnancy. Prescriptions for rheumatoid arthritis medication were delayed because the drug can also cause a termination and the pharmacist was reluctant to fill the prescription. If a person is on a regular course of treatment with medication that is incompatible with pregnancy and does not know they are pregnant, what are the potential liabilities?
What choices will the Commonwealth force upon people dealing with life threatening illness? If you are pregnant and battling cancer, must you suspend treatment because it may cause a termination? Is a woman forced to be a martyr on the small chance that the fetus may live long enough to be viable, even if its mother may die due to delayed treatment? How much more expensive, risky, and unsuccessful might cancer treatment be if it is delayed?
How close to death must a woman be before her life is sufficiently “at risk” to allow for a termination?
Domestic violence is more common among pregnant women than preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Abuse often worsens during pregnancy – especially unplanned pregnancy. What provision has the state made to protect victims in the situation it created?
Kentucky is 46th in the nation for maternal mortality. What steps has the Commonwealth taken to ensure women’s safety during and after pregnancy?
Seventy Kentucky counties do not have a single OB/Gyn physician. How much more dangerous will pregnancy be when people have to travel long distances repeatedly to meet the requirements of the various laws passed to limit women’s access to healthcare?
Typically, parents are entrusted to direct their children’s medical care. These laws threaten to remove that power from the people most capable of making a loving decision. If a child is born with a condition incompatible with life or where life can only be sustained through extreme means, will the state force families to extend survival through medical intervention? Who determines when enough is enough for that tiny human? If the state requires extraordinary medical measures, will the state also pay the bills such treatment incurs?
Finally, medical training for OB/Gyn physicians includes training in pregnancy termination. How will this law impact our medical schools’ accreditation? Will those programs be able to attract candidates? Will OB/Gyns practice in a place where they are under constant scrutiny and risk civil and criminal penalties for following their Hippocratic Oath?
Now, the Republican Kentucky legislators want to take this fuzziness a step further. They have mandated a proposed amendment to be on this November ballot that would eliminate even the option of abortion to save the mother’s life. This Amendment 2 would change Kentucky’s Constitution to stipulate that there is no right to an abortion under ANY circumstances.
Kentuckians deserve leaders willing to take on the real problems faced by Kentucky women. Instead, we will bear the consequences of a simplistic political win.
Laura Landenwich is a Louisville attorney. Maria Sorolis is an attorney and candidate for Kentucky House District 48.