Texas woman denied care while experiencing ectopic pregnancy

Earlier this month, 25 year old Kelsie Norris-De La Cruz was denied a life saving surgery in Texas after experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy complication in which a fertilized egg attaches itself to a fallopian tube, ovary, or somewhere else outside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies are very dangerous complications and can be fatal, where the fallopian tube or ovary can stretch too much during the pregnancy and rupture, leading to infection, massive bleeding, and even death. Often treated through surgical procedures, ectopic pregnancies need to be removed as soon as possible before rupturing to reduce the amount of harm caused, a procedure Kelsie Norris-De La Cruz was denied. A fertilized egg cannot survive during an ectopic pregnancy.

Why was the surgical procedure at first denied? The doctors feared prosecution for termination of the pregnancy in the face of strict abortion bans. Though Texas law has included exceptions to abortion bans for medical emergencies, this simply has proven not to be enough. In this case, Norris-De La Cruz’s life was in danger and she was lucky to be treated at a neighboring hospital in Texas 24 hours later. 

Norris-De La Cruz is not the only Texas woman to recently be denied life-saving care. Amanda Zurawski of the ongoing Zurawski v. State of Texas case was denied a life saving abortion procedure after a preterm prelabor rupture at 18 weeks. Her doctors stated that they could “still detect fetal cardiac activity” and only proceeded with the abortion procedure three days later when Zurawaski came down with a life-threatening case of sepsis that nearly ended her life and compromised her future ability to have children. Zurawaski, just like Norris-De La Cruz, was denied care on the basis of possible prosecution of the medical professionals involved. 

Abortion bans undoubtedly cause fear within practicing professionals, many of whom choose not to practice within states with bans due to the risk of losing their jobs, facing extreme fines, and even jail time. If a medical professional does practice in a state with bans, there is no way of making sure that these fears do not impact medical advice and decision making. As this fear starts to rule healthcare workers decisions, it is women who suffer at the hands of fatal medical emergencies. Additionally, many clinics lose the ability to provide vital comprehensive reproductive health resources such as birth control, breast exams, and cervical cancer screenings, resources which can help prevent life threatening disease and illness.

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