In the six weeks since the United States Supreme court The June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, at least 12 states have passed legislation that restricts or completely bans access to abortion, according to a report by NPR.
However, even in states with some of the most restrictive bans—like Alabama, where illegal abortions are classified as a first-degree felony—abortion bills still allow for an exemption: in the case of the mother’s life.
All state abortion bills as of this writing include this exemption, allowing a qualified physician to make a decision to proceed with an abortion if he or she believes that physical harm, including organ failures or death, may come to the mother if she continues the pregnancy to Term.
However, obstetrician-gynecologist Sima Menon of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said, NEWSWEEK The phrase “mother’s life” can be problematic at times.
“I think it probably seems really obvious, you know, when you read it on paper,” Menon said. “But the clinical scenario of what actually constitutes a mother’s life, there’s a really big gray area.”
The ‘gray zone’ became a reality in the case of a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who traveled to Indiana to have an abortion after claiming she was raped by a 27-year-old man. A doctor she met in Ohio referred her to travel out of state for abortion services, after she had determined her pregnancy would be six weeks and three days. Ohio allows abortions until a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or approximately six weeks.
In light of this story, which eventually made international headlines, many conservative leaders expressed doubts about the existence of the little girl with the horrific story. Among the skeptics was Ohio State Attorney General Dave Yost, who spoke about the case in a live interview. Fox News On July 11, just days after the story was first published.
In the interview, Yost wondered if the 10-year-old actually existed, and said his office would likely have known about the rape had it been reported and, if she had, would have qualified for Ohio’s exemption from the six-week ban. Because of the medical emergency to save the mother’s life.
The doctor who treated the girl in Ohio, a child abuse doctor, did not see it that way when the girl was examined, and referred her to travel out of state. She traveled to Indiana to receive abortion services, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Court records obtained by NEWSWEEK From Franklin County, Ohio, it was revealed that Gerson Fuentes, 27, was arrested July 12 in connection with the rape of the 10-year-old, who is from Columbus, Ohio. According to Columbus Dispatch, Fuentes was indicted on July 21 on two counts of rape.
When talking about a teen’s life, Dr. Menon said, it’s not enough to isolate severe medical emergencies, as in Ohio’s case, as that doesn’t reflect the form of comprehensive adolescent sexual health care.
“When we talk about this particular aspect of comprehensive reproductive care, the goal is to ensure teens reach their full potential,” Menon said. “And I think that’s why parental decision during adolescence is really important to protect, you know, to really preserve that right in adolescence.”
In the past three months, Menon has worked with three pregnant teenage girls who had miscarriages. Each scenario, she said, provides a different example of why a teenage abortion is so complicated: a patient had a failed contraceptive, a patient became pregnant after sexual assault, and one patient was mentally stabilizing. Health status.
“There is a lot of disparity in terms of opinions of health care workers,” Menon said. “The only thing that often comes up is mental health. I’ve been in this situation where my mental health is so compromised, and the thought of continuing with an unwanted pregnancy really leads to more instability.”
“In this case, mental health is an emergency that puts the mother’s life at risk,” she added.
Menon added that the patient, who was stabilizing his health, was suffering from deteriorating mental health.
Menon said her role as a full OB-GYN practitioner includes helping teens prevent pregnancy, care for them during pregnancy, and help them decide if it’s a good time for parents, which could lead to Menon facilitating abortion services.
Now, in the wake of several abortion bans that offer no exemption based on age, Menon has said that her relationship with her patients, built on trust, is at risk of severing in the future.
“It is not really possible to limit just one part of reproductive health care in isolation and we would expect that not to affect other parts of reproductive health care,” Menon said. “These health laws that we’ve seen greatly affect the ability of health care providers to care for their patients.”
Menon said the abortion ban disproportionately affects adolescent patients who already have many barriers to accessing comprehensive sexual health care, including financial constraints, transportation problems or scheduling complications from obligations such as school and work. Teens who don’t have access to resources themselves, or don’t have a trusted adult to help them, may face more difficult choices when dealing with unwanted pregnancies.
In all of the last three cases she cited, Menon said patients made decisions alongside several trusted adults, and the three teens received support from these adults to make the final decision if the time was right to be a parent.
“I mean, you can see how we end up with a situation where those with resources are able to look for out-of-state abortion services and those who don’t are not,” she said, “and unfortunately they may turn to unsafe abortion practices.”