A new report has found dozens of cases in which doctors had to deny pregnant women healthcare services that they would have received before the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Released Tuesday by researchers at the University of California San Francisco, the report found over 50 instances where women had been turned away from hospitals with life-threatening pregnancy conditions, all because doctors were unsure if they would face legal consequences for treating them under abortion bans.
Patients “are being harmed in significant ways because care is being denied or delayed,” Daniel Grossman, professor at UCSF and lead author of the report, told The Washington Post. “These laws are having a broader impact beyond people who are seeking abortion because they have an undesired pregnancy.”
Grossman said that even when legislation includes caveats to protect the life of the mother, the language used around conditions is often vague, creating uncertainties among healthcare providers, and prompting them to err on the side of caution. Hospitals have also not been able to provide clarification for physicians.
“Medicine isn’t black and white,” Grossman said. “It’s not like suddenly you know that a patient is at a very high risk of dying in a certain situation. There’s a lot of gray and that risk will slowly change over time.”
One example cited a woman whose water broke between 16 and 18 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion bans prevented her from terminating the pregnancy, which caused her to return to the emergency room days later with a life-threatening infection.
In another case, a physician refused to remove an intrauterine device (IUD) for a patient who was between 10 and 12 weeks pregnant, despite the device having already been partially expelled. Another patient was denied the procedure, despite developing placenta percreta, a life-threatening complication that can cause heavy bleeding or a uterine rupture at any given moment.
"Medical harm occurring among pregnant people in states with abortion bans include increased morbidity and complications that could result in serious impairment and risk of death," the report reads, continuing, "It's clear that abortion bans and tying providers’ hands impacts every aspect of care and will have far-reaching and devastating consequences for years to come."