By Kylie Cooper
A couple sits in front me, staring intently while I tell them the worst news of their lives. They try to hold it together as I explain a pregnancy complication they have never heard of but will change their lives forever.
At the end of the conversation, I make sure they know that what is happening is not their fault; sometimes complications arise. I tell them I’m sorry that they have found themselves in this gut-wrenching position and that they are not alone.
As a maternal-fetal medicine physician, I care for high-risk pregnancies and have dedicated my life to saving mothers and their children. The unfortunate reality is there are situations where the life of the child cannot be saved and delaying care only puts the mother at risk.
A woman whose water has broken too early and has a brewing infection inside her uterus that could kill her.
A wife with preeclampsia, a high blood pressure condition, that is at risk for a seizure or stroke at any moment.
A mother of three who is bleeding so heavily she has used up her blood clotting factors and is bleeding to death.
A teenager who was born with a heart condition whose heart cannot tolerate the physical strain of pregnancy.
A woman with a new diagnosis of cervical cancer who needs immediate lifesaving treatment that is not safe for the fetus.
These are just some of the examples in which the continuation of a pregnancy would end in harm or even death if her health care providers are unable to act in a medically appropriate and timely manner. Idaho’s abortion ban and its vague language places health care providers in a position of not being able to help. It forces us to sit and watch the inevitable happen when we had all the means to avoid major health consequences and bad outcomes.
This unprecedented interference in the physician-patient relationship will irreparably harm the people and families of Idaho. A family’s right to make their own choices has been taken away. The state has chosen for everyone. We will lose mothers, sisters, daughters and friends from complications that no one in this century should ever die of.
It is the look in their eyes that I remember. The panic in her eyes as she realizes that something dangerous is happening within her body. The sheer terror in the eyes of a mother as she watches her daughter’s life hang in the balance while we work to save her. The fear in the eyes of a husband as he pleads for me to make sure his wife will come home to their four children.
There is a heart-wrenching and frightening side of pregnancy. My patients are real people with families who never anticipated being in a perilous situation. Due to the language in this abortion ban, their health care decisions will be dictated by politicians. These decisions should belong to the patient with guidance and support from their physicians.
Kylie Cooper, MD is a maternal-fetal medicine physician in Boise, Idaho. She is the vice chair of the Idaho section for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
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