In August, a pregnant Missouri woman named Mylissa Farmer suddenly needed an abortion, just over a month after her state enacted its near-total abortion ban. Her water had broken 17 weeks into her pregnancy, and her medical records indicated a number of health factors placing her at greater risk of pregnancy-related complications, including increased risk of sepsis, loss of her uterus, and even death. Farmer is also 41-years-old. Doctors treating her recommended an abortion, but, of course, couldn’t provide her one under state law, reported the Springfield News-Leader.
Farmer and her partner consulted with doctors and experts across several states and made “countless phone calls,” with—in her words—“a baby dying inside me.” They learned there was no way for their wanted pregnancy to be viable or even last another six weeks, since Farmer’s cervix was already open. If she waited it out, she and the fetus could suffer tremendously. “The thing [a doctor] Was said, ‘There are things worse than death, and I have seen it,’” Farmer recounted.
Farmer told the newspaper she’s always identified as “pretty pro-life”—but she found herself seeking abortion care, anyway, even calling her state senator’s office to seek help. She didn’t find it.
The office of her state senator, a Republican named Bill White, told her the state ban that was literally jeopardizing her life was actually “designed to protect the woman’s life.” Farmer recalled telling White’s aide, “It’s not protecting me.… There’s no chance for a baby; she’s not going to make it. It’s putting my life in danger.” She continued, “I’m 41, it’s not something I can recover from quickly. I could lose my uterus, there’s a lot of things that could happen. We just want to move on, we just want to grieve.” White’s office promised it would talk to the state’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt on her behalf and then connected Farmer with an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center in the state. Farmer never heard from White’s staff again.
There are layers to just how unhelpful it sounds like White was, but I’m particularly struck by the callousness and stupidity of trying to direct her to a crisis pregnancy center—these Christian-run “clinics” exist solely to dissuade people from having abortions by pushing lies, and the most help they could possibly offer Farmer is a non-medical pregnancy test and some diapers for her dying fetus—if she attends enough Bible study classes. These “clinics” often don’t even staff actual health care workers, and as such, they’ve increasingly become sites of surveillance—and thus, possible criminalization—for pregnant people, because their notably non-medical staff aren’t subject to the privacy standards set by HIPAA.
That White couldn’t think of any way to help Farmer beyond sending her to a crisis pregnancy center, even as she was already losing her pregnancy (and possibly her life), is as clear a demonstration as any that anti-abortion politicians have no idea how to combat the varying life-threatening ripple effects of their bans. Yet, still, they’d rather ghost constitute in need than do anything to reverse these laws.
After being failed by her predictably unhelpful anti-abortion state senator and the fake clinic to which he referred her, Farmer searched for abortion clinics, struggling to find a clinic in a nearby state where abortion is legal that wasn’t overbooked. With help from an abortion fund, she was connected to a clinic in Illinois, but because of all the delays, by the time she got to the clinic, she was already in labor.
Several days after Farmer learned her pregnancy wasn’t viable and could possibly kill her, she received life-saving abortion care. It was a relief, but it wasn’t easy. Farmer recalled the toll of being confronted by anti-abortion protesters harassing her outside the clinic; she told the newspaper they echoed the sentiments her own friends had expressed to her, “saying we were killing our baby and that we were evil.”
“It was awful, you know? We were just going through so much,” Farmer said. “We didn’t want this…but at the same time, we had no choice.”
Beyond the trauma of losing a wanted pregnancy and experiencing a serious threat to her life, Farmer and her partner had been shrugged off and dismissed by her state senator, ostracized by her support system, and still had substantial bills to pay and a job to get back to. “If this was a year ago, they could have induced labor and I would have been able to hold her and say goodbye,” Farmer’s partner, Matthew McNeill, told the newspaper.
Their story is one of almost countless post-Roe v. wade nightmares unfolding across the country recently, between teen girls denied life-saving medications they’ve always taken because they’re childbearing age and the medications could induce miscarriage, and, recently, a Tennessee woman forced to take a costly six-hour ambulance ride across state lines for a life-saving abortion. Pregnant people are being forced to carry skull-less or entirely nonviable fetuses; pregnant child rape victims and cancer patients are being forced to cross state lines for care; and the doctors who try to help them are being threatened with prison time. We may never even know the full toll of these laws, as some reproductive health care providers recently came forward about being prevented by their employers from speaking out publicly.
All wanted abortions are medically necessary, regardless of the circumstances in which you’re seeking care. The laws unilaterally banning care are inflicting indiscriminately, dehumanizing suffering.