Several women have filed lawsuits against Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee over abortion bans, stating they were denied abortions despite having dangerous pregnancy complications.
“They've been through unthinkable trauma and today, they are holding their states, state governments accountable for the suffering that their laws have caused,” Nancy Northup, CEO of the CRR, said at a press conference Tuesday.
Jennifer Adkins, Jillaine St. Michel, Kayla Smith, and Rebecca Vincen-Brown in tandem with abortion providers filed suit against the state of Idaho, Gov. Brad Little, attorney general and the state’s board of medicine.
They claim that state’s ban has, “sown confusion, fear and chaos among the medical community, resulting in grave harms to pregnant patients whose health and safety hang in the balance across the state,” according to ABC News.
There have also been three women in Tennessee; Nicole Blackmon, Allyson Phillips, Kaitlyn Dulon. Abortion providers have also filed suit against the state, attorney general, and the state board of medical examiners.
According to the lawsuit, they claim they and others were denied “necessary and potentially life-saving medical care” because physicians “fear the penalties imposed by that ban.”
In Tennessee and Idaho; Heather Maune, Laura Anderson, Emily Corrigan, and Julia Lyons as well as the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians are all plaintiffs in the lawsuits, filing on behalf of themselves and their patients.
A trigger ban went into effect in August 2022 ceasing nearly all abortions in Tennessee as performing or attempting to perform an abortion is a Class C felony in the state.
There are politicians who say the ban allows for exceptions for pregnancies that threaten women's life or could cause serious bodily harm, but doctors told ABC News they don’t believe that is the case.
Jaci Statton has filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human service against a hospital in Oklahoma. She claims she was not provided with an abortion that was a “necessary stabilizing treatment” for her partial molar pregnancy.
According to the complaint, Stanton went to two Oklahoma University Health System facilities and at both was told she would need to be actively crashing or on the verge of a heart attack in order for doctors to intervene.
“The Supreme Court’s unwarranted reversal of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case last year has resulted in a health care crisis in states across the nation in those states that have banned abortion, 14 of them,” Northup said.
Abortions are currently prohibited in Oklahoma except when "necessary to preserve" the life of a pregnant person, under a pre-Roe ban that is in effect.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down two other abortion bans mirroring Texas' SB 8 that were passed in 2022. The court ruled that the two bans violate the state's constitution and reaffirmed a former decision recognizing the right to abortion in life-threatening situations.
The lawsuits come months after five more women, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, filed a lawsuit in Texas challenging the state’s abortion bans. They stated that the laws put their lives in danger.
In a preliminary injunction hearing a judge ruled in favor of the women and partially blocked the ban for medical emergencies and fatal diagnosis. However, the decision was appealed by the state and the injunction was put on hold.
These lawsuits are different from previous suits as most were filed by OB-GYNs and abortion providers.
“Today’s legal actions seek to ensure that pregnant people with severe pregnancy complications can access abortion care in their home state, and that doctors are given clarity on what situations qualify under the ‘medical emergency’ expectations in their state’s abortion bans,” the Center for Reproductive Rights announced in a statement Tuesday. “Doctors who violate the bans risk years in prison, hefty fines, and loss of licensure, and have thus been fearful to provide abortion care in many life-threatening circumstances.
The lead plaintiff in the Idaho lawsuit is Jennifer Adkins, a 31-year-old mother. Adkins was told at a routine 12-week ultrasound that the fetus had signs of cystic hygroma and also likely had turner syndrome which is a rare condition that results in one of the X chromosomes missing.
Adkins’ doctor told her the fetus would not survive and that she was shocked that she hadn't already miscarried. She was then told there was also a high likelihood that she would develop Mirror syndrome which causes the pregnant person to develop edema and preeclampsia and can result in stroke or death.
Adkins was informed that had the laws been different in her state she would have been referred to an abortion clinic, but now her doctors didn’t even know if they could refer to a clinic out of state.
“Even with my health and life at risk, I would not be able to terminate my pregnancy in Idaho,” Adkins said at a press conference Tuesday.
Adkins began to call clinics in neighboring states but knew with all the added travel and medical costs her family wouldn’t be able to make their mortgage payment.
“We were so grateful for the assistance from family, friends and two abortion funds,” Adkins said. “I only wish I had been able to grieve the loss of my baby at home without all of this added heartache.”
Idaho currently has a six-week ban in place modeled after Texas’ abortion law which prohibits the procedure before most women know they’re pregnant. The “abortion trafficking” bill was also signed into law in April which criminalizes helping minors to travel out of state to receive care.
Dr. Emily Corrigan, an OB-GYN and head of Idaho’s American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit states she has seen patients denied care becuase of the ban.
“Of the 16 years I have worked in this field, this past one has been by far the most difficult because of the laws that Idaho state Legislature has passed,” Corrigan stated at the press conference.
Corrigan emphasized how it has become an impossible situation for patients and physicians.
“Now, there is still widespread confusion in the medical community in Idaho about in which circumstance abortion care is legal,” Corrigan said. “It’s become too much for many of my colleagues and they have decided to leave.”
Despite that Corrigan still has faith, “I have hope that the legislature will improve the law. That’s why I’m still here, but I have to ask myself every single day if it’s worth it to stay here.”
Nicole Blackmon is a 31-year-old living in Tennessee who lost her 14-year-old son in a drive-by shooting just months before she found out she was pregnant.
She didn’t have any plans on having another child but felt blessed when she got the news. She stopped taking medication for hypertension and a rare brain condition in order to avoid harming her pregnancy.
However, fifteen weeks into her pregnancy, Blackmon found out her baby had a fatal diagnosis. Due to not being able to travel for abortion she had to carry the baby despite the risks to her health and gave birth to a stillborn baby.
Blackmon could feel the baby’s organs moving around in her body and she said each movement was painful, according to the lawsuit.
“What we went through was torture that non one else should every have to face,” Blackmon said.
At 18 weeks pregnant, Allie Phillips, 28, and her husband received a fatal diagnosis about their second daughter. They were told the fetus had multiple anomalies that were incompatible with life; many of the fetus’ organs including the heart and brain had not properly developed. They were informed by her doctor that the fetus’ condition would continue to deteriorate and continuing the pregnancy would impose serious health risks to Phillips.
Due to the ban in Tennessee Phillips ‘ doctor told her she was unable to offer advice on access to abortion care. After researching the couple made an appointment in New York for the following week.
After arriving Phillips was informed her baby’s heart had stopped beating and was taken for emergency care as she was at risk for severe blood clots and infection, including sepsis.
“I went into surgery alone, and I sat in recovery alone. The doctors were kind and compassionate, but I’ve never met them before. I had to grieve the loss of my daughter in a city I’d never been to, far away from my family and my friends,” Phillips said at a press conference. “Politicians are passing cruel laws against something they know absolutely nothing about.”
Statton was informed she had a partial molar pregnancy after experiencing pain, dizziness, and severe nausea. Not long after she went to the emergency room with bleeding and severe pain, however, the hospital did not provide an abortion also known as “stabilizing care,” according to the complaint.
“All of the doctors agreed I needed a life saving abortion and should receive care under Oklahoma’s ban. But the ultrasound tech refused to sign off on the exception. He insisted he could hear a heartbeat and told the doctors that they could not touch me due to the ban. I remember hearing the doctors pleading with him,” Statton said during a process conference.
She was then transferred to another hospital within the University of Oklahoma health care system where she stated she begged staff to perform an abortion but was once again denied care being told they couldn’t help her until she was crashing. It was then suggested that she should wait in the parking lot until she was about to die, according to Statton.
She and her husband then drove three hours in the middle of a medical emergency to a neighboring state in order to access care, according to the complaint. The complaint claims that when the Oklahoma University facilities denied Statton care by not providing stabilizing care while in a medical emergency they violated federal law.
"Our physicians and staff remain steadfast and committed to providing the highest quality and compassionate care for women of all ages and stages of life. Our healthcare complies with state and federal laws and regulatory compliance standards. Our physicians and staff are aware of and follow state and federal laws,” said OU Health in a statement to ABC News.