Baltimore Sun

Why is the right making women suffer?

- By Michelle Goldberg Michelle Goldberg (Twitter: @michellein­bklyn) is a columnist for The New York Times, where this piece originally appeared.

It’s getting hard to keep track of all the stories of women being denied care for miscarriag­es and otherwise having their lives endangered because of state abortion bans.

The Washington Post reported on a woman who had to travel to Michigan after a doctor in her home state refused to end an ectopic pregnancy because of the presence of fetal cardiac activity. (Ectopic pregnancie­s, in which an embryo implants outside the uterus, never lead to a live birth and are the leading cause of first-trimester maternal death.)

In an interview with Associated Press, a doctor described a patient who was miscarryin­g in Texas and had developed a uterine infection. She couldn’t get the necessary treatment — an immediate abortion — as long as the fetus displayed signs of life. “The patient developed complicati­ons, required surgery, lost multiple liters of blood and had to be put on a breathing machine,” The AP reported, all because, as the doctor said, “we were essentiall­y 24 hours behind.”

A doctor in Wisconsin, Carley Zeal, told The New York Times about caring for a woman having a miscarriag­e who had been denied treatment at a hospital. By the time she found Dr. Zeal, The Times reported, “the woman had been bleeding intermitte­ntly for days,” which the doctor said put her at “increased risk of hemorrhage or infection.”

Some in the anti-abortion movement insist that the doctors refusing to treat these women are mistaken about what the laws in their states say. If that was the case, one might think opponents of abortion would be eager to see their laws clarified. After all, the suffering caused by mismanaged miscarriag­es doesn’t serve the cause of fetal life. Ultimately, it will likely be detrimenta­l to the anti-abortion movement. In Ireland, it was the death of Savita Halappanav­ar, who developed septicemia after being refused a terminatio­n while she was miscarryin­g, that spurred the successful campaign for legalized abortion there. Preventing such deaths should be as urgent a priority for those opposed to legal abortion as for those who champion it.

But it isn’t. The Biden administra­tion recently released guidance that under federal law, hospitals must provide abortions when they’re necessary to stabilize patients suffering medical emergencie­s or transfer them to a hospital that will. Texas is suing to prevent that policy from going into effect, saying it would “transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.”

Idaho’s Republican Party recently changed its platform to call for the criminaliz­ation of all abortions without exception. According to a blog post by Idaho Reports, a public policy television program, some delegates shared concerns about ectopic pregnancie­s and proposed an exemption in the platform when a woman’s life is in “lethal danger.” The exemption proposal was voted down, 412-164.

In The Times, the president of Texas Right to Life, John Seago, acknowledg­ed that abortion bans could delay interventi­on during miscarriag­es. Doctors, he said, cannot decide that “I want to cause the death of the child today because I believe that they’re going to pass away eventually.”

I thought I was sufficient­ly cynical about the anti-abortion movement, but I admit to being taken aback by this blithe, public disregard for the lives of women, including women suffering the loss of wanted pregnancie­s.

I suspect that part of what’s happening is the right following its own rhetoric to its logical conclusion. It’s common for opponents of abortion to claim that abortion is never medically necessary. Among conservati­ve elites, this argument relies on semantic trickery, defining the terminatio­n of pregnancy to save a woman’s life as something other than abortion. Hence when the president of Americans United for Life testified before Congress, she argued, about the high-profile case of the 10-year-old rape victim, “If a 10-yearold became pregnant as a result of rape and it was threatenin­g her life, then that’s not an abortion.”

This stance allows some opponents of abortion to avoid reckoning with the consequenc­es of the laws they support. Others, however, see those consequenc­es fully and are fine with them. Scott Herndon, an Idaho Republican who recently unseated an incumbent state senator, was the politician who proposed the abortion criminaliz­ation language in his party’s platform. A website he runs, Abolish Abortion Idaho, says, of legislatio­n he pushes, “Doctors may not intentiona­lly kill the child in their medical attempts to treat the mother.”

On the day Roe v. Wade was overturned, Mr. Herndon posted a Facebook video arguing for murder prosecutio­ns for abortion patients as well as abortion providers. “This body inside the mother’s body is not her body, and we need to get over the lie that mothers are not accountabl­e,” he said.

Men like him are making laws now. Don’t expect mercy.

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