Despite dangerous pregnancy complications, abortions denied

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Increasing numbers of physicians and families nationwide say a post-Roe fear has come to pass: Pregnant women with dangerous medical conditions are showing up in hospitals and doctors’ offices and being denied the abortions that could help treat them.

Dr. Kristina Tocce sits for a portrait in the Planned Parenthood offices in east Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. Tocce, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said she’s seen patients with life-threatening diagnoses forced to drive 10 hours or more, or fly out of state, to get abortions so they can begin chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Doctors say they’re forced to balance medical judgment with potential punishments, including prison time. Although even the strictest laws allow abortion to save a mother’s life, a weighty question lingers: How close to death must the patient be?It’s impossible to say when that line is crossed, said Dr. Alison Haddock, who’s on the board of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

And at the University of California, San Francisco, researchers who invited health care workers nationwide toof poor-quality care caused by abortion restrictions say they were surprised by the initial volume of responses. Twenty-five submissions came in the first six weeks. Among them were descriptions of patients sent home after their water broke in the second trimester who later returned with serious infections.

Dr. Karen Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said some oncologists are confused about treating pregnant cancer patients, particularly when therapies may induce miscarriage. Dr. Kristina Tocce, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said she’s seen patients with life-threatening diagnoses forced to drive 10 hours or more, or fly out of state, to get abortions so they can begin chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

“We’re sort of in a period of time where all these questions come up,” she said. “The legislatures are going to be working to solve some of these problems.”

 

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