April 3, 2012
Scenes From The War On Women

Another fine piece of work from the Georgia legislature:

The Republicans in the Georgia legislature managed to find a “compromise” that would allow them to finally pass a 20 week ban on abortions.  The Senate proposal to exclude “medically futile” pregnancies was accepted by the House and voted through, effectively banning abortion after 20 weeks for any fetus except those with “profound and ‘irremediable’ anomalies that would be ‘incompatible with sustaining life after birth.’”

Of course, this would render doctors virtually incapable of saving the life of women who experience life-threatening pregnancy complications past 20 weeks, like this young woman who I’ve referenced on two prior occasions, as told by her doctor:

One of my own obstetric patients carrying a desired pregnancy recently experienced rupture of the amniotic sac at 20 weeks gestation.  The patient had a complete placenta previa, a condition where the afterbirth covers the opening of the uterus.  Although the patient hoped the pregnancy might continue, she began contracting and suddenly hemorrhaged, losing nearly a liter of blood into her bed in a single gush.  Had we not quickly intervened to terminate the pregnancy, she would have bled to death, just as women do in countries with limited access to obstetric services.

Under Georgia’s proposed law, this woman is to either be allowed to die, or her doctors must somehow attempt to extract the fetus in a way that will potentially preserve its life.  In the former case, both the fetus and the mother die.  In the latter case, the doctors must focus on doing whatever it takes to preserve the fetus’s potential life, and not the mother’s actual life.

This is all a little absurd when you take into account the fact that the generally-agreed-upon point of viability for a fetus is around 24 weeks, and even at that point, “the incidence of disabilities remains high.”  Neonatologists generally will not even provide intensive, life-saving care to a fetus that is born prior to 23 weeks because it is unlikely that the child will survive even with the aid of medical attention.  

Now place this information in the context of Georgia’s proposed law: this law legally mandates that doctors do everything in their power to save a fetus that is unlikely to survive, without regard to the manner in which it affects the woman’s health or chances of survival.  It demonstrates a preference for trying to save the life of a fetus of questionable viability, over saving the life of a mother whose viability is not in question.  A mother who suffers a life-threatening complication related to her pregnancy will usually survive with timely intervention, as demonstrated by the young woman in the case mentioned above.  The same cannot be said of a fetus that is 20-24 weeks old.  In fact, it’s more likely than not that they won’t, based on medical experience.

This is perverse.  The woman’s life should be prior to the fetus’s life.  Even if we were to place both on equal footing, this law clearly tells doctors to favor the life of the fetus over the life of the mother.  It does so even in situations where timely abortive services would almost certainly save the mother’s life, and regardless of whether the fetus is more likely than not to expire after being birthed.

Women will die if this law is implemented.  And the majority of the fetuses “saved” will die as well.  But once again, we are faced with a coterie of Republican public officials who do not give a shit whether or not this is true, as demonstrated by the vilification of one of their own who realized that his own daughter’s life would have been compromised had this bill been in effect a few years prior.

There are those who take umbrage at the rhetorical usage of the phrase “War on Women” to describe the recent, unprecedented expansion of anti-abortion measures at the state and federal level.  I offer you the anecdotes and information mentioned above as evidence that this rhetoric is not merely a craven politicization.  It reflects the fact that actual women will suffer and die as a result of the policy choices currently being implemented by one of America’s “great political parties.”  In my eyes, it is fair to describe potentially lethal policies as a War on those affected.  And frankly, I’m not sure how one could conclude otherwise.

  1. sasharn reblogged this from letterstomycountry
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  4. lafrondeuse reblogged this from letterstomycountry and added:
    This is not okay. I will remember come November. Georgian for choice
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  8. gallen said: Well; the unspoken absurdity is having specialists in the political field try to make medical decisions. I think most medical doctors would do far better in politics than political types would as doctors.
  9. letterstomycountry posted this