Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

December 2nd, 2022:

Quantifying the abortion ban harm

These stories will keep on coming.

Usually, articles in medical journals are about science; they bring data to their readers, who can use them to provide evidence-based care to their patients.

But sometimes, evidence is an expression of grief or even rage. A recent journal article, “Maternal Morbidity and Fetal Outcomes Among Pregnant Women at 22 Weeks’ Gestation or Less with Complications in 2 Texas Hospitals After Legislation on Abortion,” contains such evidence.

To understand this article, you need to know that any number of complications can threaten a pregnancy, such as rupture of the bag of water around the baby, preterm labor, or heavy bleeding. When those complications arise before 22 weeks of gestation— before the age of viability when a fetus can live outside of a uterus—the standard of medical care is to offer a patient termination of pregnancy as an option. Women who continue pregnancy in these situations take on significant risks to their own health, and because of the early gestation, the chance for a healthy baby is very, very low.

However, in September 2021, Texas adopted two measures, S.B. 4 and S.B. 8, which instituted punitive actions against anyone providing abortion. These laws took effect before the Supreme Court decision ended Roe v. Wade. And all of a sudden, termination of pregnancy became impossible in Texas unless and until there was an “immediate threat to maternal life.”

The journal article, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, describes the experience of two large Texas hospitals over a period of eight months following that legislation. The authors, who care for patients at those hospitals, describe how their hospitals managed 28 women who presented at less than 22 weeks’ gestation with serious complications following the ban on abortion.

Without the ability to offer abortion to their patients, all 28 women were managed expectantly. This is a medical way of saying that they waited for something terrible to happen. That wait lasted, on average, nine days.

During that nine days of waiting, here is what was achieved for the babies: 27 of the patients had loss of the fetus in utero or the death of the infant shortly after delivery. Of the entire cohort, one baby remained alive, still in the NICU at time of the journal article’s publication, with a long list of complications from extreme prematurity, including bleeding in the brain, brain swelling, damage to intestines, chronic lung disease. and liver dysfunction. If a baby survives these complications, they often result in permanent, lifelong illnesses.

During those nine days of waiting for an immediate threat to maternal life, here is what happened to the women of that cohort: Most of them went into labor, or had a stillbirth, which meant the medical team could then legally intervene and empty the uterus. Fifty-seven percent of those pregnant women had some sort of complication, and for about a third of them, it was serious enough to require intensive-care admission, surgery, or a second admission to the hospital. One of the 28 patients ended up with a hysterectomy, which means she will never carry a pregnancy again. The authors of the article estimate, based on their pre-September practice, that about half of those maternal complications would have been avoided if immediate abortion had been offered as a choice. But of course, post-September in Texas, these women didn’t get a choice.

I’ll say again, it’s just a matter of time before some nice white suburban lady who already has kids dies as a result of not being able to get proper medical care following a similar instance. I’d love to tell the woman who was forced to have a hysterectomy to sue the state of Texas for that, but I don’t know that any deserving target of such a lawsuit would be allowed to be named as a defendant. You know what the refrain is for this song.

City of Uvalde sues Uvalde County DA

What is going on here?

The city of Uvalde is suing the local district attorney, accusing her of withholding information an independent investigator needs to conduct an internal affairs investigation of the police response to the Robb Elementary School shooting.

City officials hired Jesse Prado of JPPI Investigations LLC to conduct the internal affairs inquiry. The suit filed Thursday names Christina Mitchell, Uvalde County district attorney for the 38th Judicial District, as the lone defendant. It seeks a judge to compel Mitchell, who could not be immediately contacted for comment, to hand over all relevant law enforcement investigative records and materials from all law enforcement agencies.

“The internal affairs investigation by Prado is ongoing, but it is significantly restricted by the scope of evidence available to Prado by defendant,” the suit alleged.

In a statement about the suit, city officials said the Uvalde community had “waited entirely too long for answers and transparency” about the May 24 shooting and the widely criticized law enforcement response.

“Despite the City of Uvalde’s efforts to amicably obtain the necessary investigative materials for its ongoing Uvalde Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation, the District Attorney has blocked the City’s ability to obtain critical information to assess its officers’ actions and compliance with police department policies and expectations,” they said in a statement. “From day one, the city’s focus is on helping the entire Uvalde community, parents who lost children, children who lost parents, and young survivors navigate through the healing process.”

This is all too weird. I have no idea what is going on. I can’t even imagine how frustrated the Uvalde parents must be at this point. Texas Public Radio has more.

Yeah, Deshaun Watson will be back on Sunday

Unfortunately, his suspension is now over.

With nearly all of the more than two dozen lawsuits filed against Deshaun Watson having been settled, most of the women who accused the Cleveland quarterback of sexual misconduct have no interest in his return to Houston on Sunday and just want to move on with their lives, according to their attorney.

But about 10 of the women who accused Watson of sexual harassment and assault during massages are planning to attend Sunday’s game at NRG Stadium when the Browns take on the Texans and watch him play in his return from an 11-game suspension, said attorney Tony Buzbee.

Some of the women really want to attend the game “to kind of make the statement, ‘Hey we’re still here. We matter. Our voice was heard and this is not something that’s over. (Sexual harassment and assault) happen every day in the United States,’” Buzbee said.

The women declined to comment ahead of Sunday’s game, he said.

But it’s unclear if the spotlight Watson is expected to get this week will mean continued attention on the allegations against him and what his accusers say is trauma they’re still dealing with, or if it’s the first step in shifting the conversation strictly to football and his play on the field, according to experts.

“It can go either way … I think probably for the vast majority of NFL fans, they’re going to forget about the past and start focusing on the future with him,” said David Ring, a California-based attorney who is not connected to the lawsuits and who has represented victims of sexual assault.

[…]

Some organizations that work with victims of sexual violence said the expected media attention on Watson’s return to Houston is likely to trigger traumatic emotions in the women who accused him and with other survivors.

“I think survivors in high-profile cases whom I’ve talked to over the years, you get very mixed reactions. Some of them just want it to be out of the news … Others want (the perpetrator’s name) repeated every time … because bit by bit, they feel like that brings some degree of justice,” said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Sonia Corrales, deputy CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center, said this week’s focus on Watson’s return could be an opportunity for the NFL to highlight its policies to punish violence against women. A 2021 study by the University of Arkansas found the NFL did not follow its own personal conduct policy in punishing players who committed violent acts, including violence against women.

An NFL spokesman did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

“I’m going to suspect that the NFL is going to hold its nose and hope this weekend goes by quickly. I don’t think they’re going to address it,” Ring said.

Corrales said she hopes the attention this week from the media and public also prompts discussion not just on football but on sexual violence and all its forms.

“Sure, you want to concentrate on football, but let’s not minimize. Let’s also say this is important, that we need to talk about the trauma and the impact that sexual violence has on survivors,” Corrales said.

As a reminder, there are two pending lawsuits against Watson, a new one and a holdover from the original batch of 24. I think we can all assume that the NFL will do its best to avoid the subject this weekend, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to. If you find yourself at the game, please take the opportunity to let your feelings be known. Reform Austin has more.