There’s a Quiet New Crisis in Texas After the Abortion Ban. It Could Get Much Worse. https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/there-s-a-quiet-new-crisis-in-texas-after-the-abortion-ban-it-could-get-much-worse/ar-AA18T1jF?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=8abb3abcfec54c6aa0c3290467030645&ei=94
For three days last fall, Leah Wilson entered her pregnant patient’s hospital room and checked the fetus for a heartbeat. She was waiting for it to stop. The woman’s water had broken at just 19 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability, causing an infection in her uterus. The fetus would not survive, but until it died, or the woman’s condition worsened, there was little the hospital would do, said Wilson, who was her nurse at the time.
Typically in this kind of situation, doctors would terminate the pregnancy to prevent a life-threatening infection or other serious complication. But this patient was in Texas, where abortion is no longer legal.
So they waited. The smell of the infection filled the room, Wilson said. She tried to help the patient stay clean. She watched her vitals and monitored her for sepsis—if the infection got bad enough, if it spread through her body, then the doctors would finally intervene, to save her life. Wilson struggled to explain to the woman slowly losing her pregnancy why they weren’t doing anything else to help. Finally, on the third day, she said, the heartbeat stopped.
By the time Wilson cared for this patient, she had been working as a labor and delivery nurse at the San Antonio hospital for about a year and a half. She decided to go into nursing after seven years at home raising her young kids, inspired by the complicated birth of her own son and the impact her nurses at the time had on both their recoveries. At the hospital, which sees a large number of high-risk pregnant patients from across the region, Wilson said she often volunteered to work on difficult cases involving fetal loss. Several of her friends had miscarried, and she wanted to be the nurse who supported other patients through it: “It’s always hard, but usually, you know, you go and you cry for your five minutes in the closet once things are over, and then you move on.”
By September 2021, though, caring for these patients became much scarier in Texas. That’s when Senate Bill 8 went into effect, banning nearly all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, and allowing virtually any person to sue anyone they suspected of “aiding and abetting” the procedure. The most restrictive abortion law in the country at the time, S.B. 8 included only an ambiguous exception for “medical emergencies,” resulting in hospitals delaying or denying care to people with pregnancy complications for fear of liability, and leaving providers worried they could be sued for tasks they had previously been doing without a second thought in their day-to-day work, including miscarriage management. By last summer, things had become even harder at Wilson’s hospital and across the state: Following the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Texas banned all abortions, with only narrow yet vague exceptions to save the life of the pregnant person and a potential penalty of life in prison for physicians. “It meant no longer providing the standard of care that we would have prior to Dobbs,” Wilson said. “It meant patients sitting there for days, actively losing nonviable pregnancies, and us waiting for something to go bad enough that we could help them.”