Pregnant? Good luck!

Pregnancy in the United States can be challenging!

If you are pregnant by choice, congratulations! I hope all goes well for you–and that you have a good doctor and good insurance. Depending on where you live, finding a doctor and hospital that are willing to accept pregnant patients is becoming more challenging. Just recently, the only hospital in a town in Idaho has announced that it will soon cease delivering babies. They are not accepting any new obstetrics patients, effective immediately…and patients will have to drive at least 46 miles to the closest hospital.

Why? There were multiple reasons, but a large one was the action of the Idaho legislature. The hospital’s press release said this:

The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care. Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.

Another physician wrote this in a guest column:

As the medical director of women’s health care at St. Luke’s Health System, I am witnessing first-hand the impact of these laws on all physicians who give advice and care to pregnant women. These providers are terrified and constantly second-guessing their decisions. Not because of the restrictions on broad access to abortion, but because they can no longer safely manage and advise their patients who have pregnancy complications.

Complicated pregnancies are not rare; the average is 30 per week for the St. Luke’s Health System alone. These complications may require the termination of the pregnancy to protect the health of the mother or end a fatal fetal defect. But physicians dealing with these complications could be facing felony charges from such care and have no choice but to defend these medical decisions in court.

If you are not pregnant by choice, good luck! And I mean that sincerely.

If you are hoping to get an abortion, again, good luck. Far too many legislatures are pushing through bills that would allow no abortion after 6 weeks (if that)–and that is before most people even know they are pregnant. Even if you are fortunate enough to be in a state that allows abortion, you still may be subject to intrusive questions and procedures–and if your doctor is willing to prescribe a medical abortion rather than a surgical procedure, you still may have trouble finding a pharmacy that is willing to fill that prescription.

If you have been able to jump through all of those hoops, you are not out of the woods yet. At least one state legislature is working on passing a law that would call for executing anyone who has an abortion for any reason. I wish I could say that this is a horrible April Fool’s joke–or that it only comes from the crazy fringe of the legislature–but I can’t.

According to an article at Common Dreams, 21 Republican senators backed a bill proposed by Republican Rob Harris in South Carolina–a bill called the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023–which would amend the state’s criminal code to give a fertilized egg “equal protection under the homicide laws of the state.” This would make abortion punishable by the death penalty. The article goes on to state that “[t]he bill does not include an exception for people whose pregnancies result from rape or incest, and [a] political commentator…noted its language is vague enough to suggest that some people who suffer miscarriages could become eligible for the death penalty.”

There are years of evidence that show that comprehensive sex education and access to birth control help bring down the abortion rate…but the same senators who want to ban abortion for any reason also don’t want people to have access to that kind of information. In fact, a proposed bill in Florida (again, proposed by a Republican legislator) would mandate any kind of sex education be offered only from grades six through twelve, despite the fact that many girls begin experiencing their menstrual cycle in fourth or fifth grades. Teachers would be prohibited from giving those students any kind of information that would help them.

A nationwide study in 2021 found that about a quarter of students struggle to afford menstrual products, causing them to miss a class or day of school. One would think that helping to meet that need would be important–but apparently not in Idaho. While the state covers the cost of toilet paper, paper towels, and soap in public school bathrooms, students who may need help with menstrual products are on their own. Idaho had a chance to help them at the cost of approximately $3.50 per student ($435,000 in one-time funds to install dispensers and $300,400 annually to stock them). Idaho is expected to have a $1.4 billion tax revenue surplus at the end of the fiscal year–but helping menstruating students so that they don’t feel ashamed or alienated or needing to stay home because they don’t have access to the products they need apparently costs too much.

Welcome to women’s health care challenges in America in 2023…

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