The first women who would be personally affected if Roe was knocked down are already pregnant

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the decision would most immediately and directly affect the more than 300,000 women who are currently pregnant or will be pregnant before July in the 13 states with so-called trigger laws.

That’s the number of people who — according to an NBC News analysis of 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the abortion rights-supporting Guttmacher Institute — would see their state’s abortion policies change as they are still at stages of pregnancy when they would otherwise have benefited from abortions. In other words, the laws that determine their options would change almost overnight.

Because the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion published by Politico last week is just that — a draft — conversations about its implications have remained in the realm of hypotheticals. But that doesn’t seem hypothetical to Sarah Carpenter, who is six months pregnant in Louisiana.

Carpenter said she had a miscarriage in September, and it opened her eyes to all that can go wrong between conception and birth. Compared to that, she says, this pregnancy seems “pretty easy” even though she regularly vomits so forcefully that the blood vessels in her face burst.

Still, Carpenter worries about worst-case scenarios, as do many expectant parents. That anxiety was amplified by the prospect of Louisiana’s trigger law.

“I am now 26 weeks pregnant, I really want this baby, nursery is over,” she said. “But if we go to another anatomical analysis and their brains aren’t developed or their hearts aren’t developing, if there’s something that’s not compatible with life, what would that look like- he?”

Currently, Louisiana allows abortions up to 22 weeks, with exceptions after that if the baby does not survive or there is a serious threat to the mother’s physical health. Carpenter’s baby is already viable, although she will likely still be pregnant at the end of June, when the court ruling is expected. If Roe is overturned, all abortions in Louisiana would become illegal unless the mother’s life was at stake.

Jessica Horton, a Salt Lake City attorney who is five months pregnant with her fourth child, shares Carpenter’s concerns. Utah’s trigger law provides exceptions for severe birth defects, rape, incest, or threat of serious injury or death to the mother. Still, says Horton, she’s worried.

“Being pregnant, I want to have the full range of options available to me if something were to go wrong – to be able to choose what’s best for me, my husband, my current children and the baby,” a- she declared.

Dismissal decisions for medical reasons

The majority of abortions in the United States occur at or before nine weeks of gestation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to a 2013 survey, about 6% of American women seek an abortion due to concerns about their own health. A 2015 study found that around 4% of abortions occur in wanted pregnancies, often due to issues such as fetal abnormalities. Termination for this reason often occurs later in pregnancy, at or after 21 weeks. This is because ultrasounds usually don’t give a clear picture of abnormalities until around 18 to 20 weeks, and patients have to wait until almost halfway through pregnancy to have tests like amniocentesis to diagnose genetic disorders. The Supreme Court’s Roe decision is likely seven weeks away.

Even in states that will continue to allow abortion until such time as a fetus can survive outside the womb – around 24 weeks after the start of the mother’s last menstrual period – that still leaves some people only a week or two, or even less, to decide whether to terminate after discovering a fetal abnormality or other problem.

Such was the case for Denise Miller, a teacher outside Philadelphia, who discovered at around 21 weeks pregnant in 2005 that her baby was showing signs of a rare birth defect that would leave one side of her heart underdeveloped. . At 23 weeks, Miller still didn’t have the final results from her amniocentesis, but Pennsylvania law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks.

“Right away, they told us that we really had to make a decision: Do we want to continue the pregnancy?” she says.

Jennifer Hoskovec, former president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, said reversing Roe could force some people to make even less informed decisions about pregnancy.

“The more restrictive these anti-choice laws become, the more we force patients to make decisions or to think about making decisions perhaps with more limited information, or just removing their ability to make decisions,” he said. she declared.

Miller and her husband made the painful choice to end their relationship. Two days later, they got the amniocentesis results: The fetus also had a severe case of a chromosomal disorder called DiGeorge syndrome.

“It would have been a very short, painful and difficult life, so it reassured us that we felt like we made the right choice,” Miller said. “Of course we were devastated. I feel like that was the darkest point of my entire life.”

Miller is now a director of a support group called Ending a Wanted Pregnancy. Its members are devastated by the prospect of Roe being overthrown, she said.

“A lot of people have had to step away from social media because it’s so triggering right now,” Miller said.

“I don’t wish anyone to have to make that choice, but not being able to make that choice if they need to is a whole different story,” she added.

A 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas is escorted down the hall by a clinic administrator before having an abortion Oct. 9 at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana.
A 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas is escorted down the hall by a clinic administrator before having an abortion Oct. 9 at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana.Rebecca Blackwell/AP File

But Angie Thomas, associate director of Louisiana Right to Life, said that in cases involving fetal abnormalities, “even if your child isn’t perfectly healthy, that child deserves to be loved and deserves to take their first breath. “.

Thomas’ organization is excited about the prospect of an abortion ban in Louisiana.

“For 50 years now, we’ve been trying, of course, to overturn Roe v. Wade because we believe human life begins at conception,” she said.

Some pregnant women fear for their own health

Michelle Baker, a six-month-pregnant Texas resident, said she was worried about whether her state’s trigger law might affect her physical health. Texas already allows deprived citizens from prosecuting anyone who provides abortion care or helps someone obtain an abortion after more than six weeks of pregnancy. But if Roe is overturned, the state’s trigger law would ban all abortions except to prevent death or serious injury to the mother. Baker said she was concerned about how doctors might interpret this exception in the law.

“If something were to happen the moment I gave birth, let’s say there was a complication, would they even try to save my life?” she says.

Horton also said if she ever got pregnant again, the gray area around the exceptions in Utah’s induction law would be stressful.

“If something were to go wrong, it really scares me, if I were to have an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage and someone were to misinterpret the facts,” she said.

But Thomas brushed off those types of concerns. Abortion bans, she said, have “nothing to do with real medical issues that are very painful and dangerous” for the mother.

Movement across state lines

After Texas instituted its six-week abortion ban in September, some pregnant women sought abortions in Oklahoma. When Oklahoma instituted its own six-week ban last week, clinics began directing patients to Arkansas or Kansas. Already, abortion clinics in states without trigger laws are gearing up for an influx.

“I come from a privileged place where I can afford to travel out of state. We have family in California, so if we needed to, we could go somewhere else,” Horton said. “But I totally recognize that’s not an option for everyone.”

Carpenter said the prospect of Louisiana’s trigger law heightened the desire she already had to move elsewhere.

“I’ve been told how female I am more times than I can count here,” she said. “I bought a car last summer, and everyone was talking to my husband. I’m like, ‘I’ve got the money. I’ll give you the check. Y’all can have the conversation with me.”

Carpenter and her husband began planning a move to Cincinnati – in her home state.

“Having a baby could kill me — like, actually,” she said. “Louisiana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.”

Carpenter now plans to give birth to her baby girl in Ohio.

“I don’t feel discouraged about having a baby right now,” she said. “There’s a lot we can do to raise our daughter to advocate for the best.”

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