U.S. Supreme Court Abortion Ban: Death Toll 1?

by sassywho

22 year old Laura Smith died last month:

HYANNIS — Eileen and Tom Smith had just sat down to watch the evening news when they received a call no parent ever wants to get. The woman on the other end of the line was hysterical. She said the Smiths’ 22-year-old daughter, Laura, was in the emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital. The doctors were looking for next of kin.

And there was more. Laura Smith had been pregnant for 13 weeks. And, earlier that day, she had been at a clinic that provides abortions.

Her death is still being investigated:

The state medical examiner hasn’t determined the cause of Smith’s death, a state spokesman said. And Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe is awaiting those results before determining whether further action should be taken, he said.

Eileen Smith met with Osathanondh in the lobby of the Boston Harbor Hotel in Boston about 10 days after Laura’s death.

Smith said she learned from Osathanondh that her daughter had a suction-type abortion, and that she was anesthetized during the procedure. She saw the waiver her daughter signed, the permissions she gave and the list of drugs she was given, Smith said.

She declined to give further details, citing the court case.

Abortion-related death is rare in the United States, according to government statistics.

The Supreme Court ruling earlier this year, fraught with paternal condescension and obfuscating language, was unpopular with physicians and pro-choicers for a reason: women’s safety was at risk. This was widely known!

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a federal ban on so- called partial-birth abortion in April is causing medical practitioners to explore alternate second-trimester abortion methods, placing them in uncharted legal and medical waters that could compromise women’s health.

The ban is expected to bring more risky abortion methods — with little clinical data on safety — into wider use for the sole purpose of legally protecting providers, doctors and experts say.

These alternative second-trimester abortion methods include fetalcide — killing the fetus while it is still in the womb — and hysterotomy, opening the uterus through an abdominal incision.

I have no way of knowing what specific procedure Dr. Osathanondh used, but one doubts that, facing a potential a 2 year jail term, he would choose the safer–but legally riskier–option to terminate a 2nd trimester pregnancy.

While practitioners can continue to perform D&Es, they must now be careful about their methods, Drey said.

Dilating a woman’s cervix too far could show intent to perform a D&X — a violation of the law. Even the way clinicians hold forceps could show intent, Drey said.

“This is where it becomes frightening for physicians,” she said. “To do a safe D&E, you like to have more dilators. Now we are being told that more dilation means you have intent to do a criminal procedure.”

Not dilating a woman’s cervix far enough can result in discomfort, pain and medical risk, she said.

Because there are so many gray areas in the law, it is yet unknown what the parameters will be for prosecuting physicians, said Beth Parker, partner with Bingham McCutchen, who represented Planned Parenthood in the San Francisco case challenging the law.

Women’s health is directly tied to restrictions on abortion, as a study published in the Lancet this month is telling:

“We now have a global picture of induced abortion in the world, covering both countries where it is legal and countries where laws are very restrictive,” Dr. Paul Van Look, director of the W.H.O. Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said in a telephone interview. “What we see is that the law does not influence a woman’s decision to have an abortion. If there’s an unplanned pregnancy, it does not matter if the law is restrictive or liberal.”

But the legal status of abortion did greatly affect the dangers involved, the researchers said. “Generally, where abortion is legal it will be provided in a safe manner,” Dr. Van Look said. “And the opposite is also true: where it is illegal, it is likely to be unsafe, performed under unsafe conditions by poorly trained providers.”

It’s actually quite simple: restrict abortion, women die. Ultimately, Dr. Kennedy has compromised women’s health by turning medical practice into a crapshoot. Perhaps Laura Smith is the first casualty.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

27 thoughts on “U.S. Supreme Court Abortion Ban: Death Toll 1?

  1. Timely and powerful post, Stacy. Nicaragua is definitely a bellwether. I fully expect the stateside death toll to increase as a result of SCOTUS’ dangerously paternalistic meddling with the health care profession.

    Bottom line: the lives of American women are now jeopardized, all thanks to Justice Kennedy’s agonized squick.


  2. A D and X on a 13-week pregnancy? I don’t think so. The article said it was a suction-type abortion.

    And that Lancet study basically made up abortion numbers based on assumptions and deductions. Its scientific validity is very much open to question. Fox News reported that it concluded that 90% of women would have abortions in their lifetime. That just about killed its credibility.

    Btw, I have seen no conclusive evidence that D and X’s are done in Canada. How many women are dying from that? Do you know?


  3. Suzanne, help me out here, because i can’t tell if you are being sincere or are one of mattt’s friends giving me an initiation.

    For now I am going to go with the assumption that you are sincere.

    I assume you know that the 2nd trimester begins at 13 weeks. So it is feasible that a doc would perform a D&X, a D&E would be easier but because of the ambiguity in the ruling doctors now perform those differently often times with more drugs making the procedure more dangerous.

    Secondly, when I read the study I did not see any figure of 90% of women having abortions in their lifetime. But there’s a reason that we refer to Fox as the Faux News Network.

    and to answer your question I am not familiar with D&X rates in Canada, I am assuming since there are not similar restrictions in Canada that it is safer.


  4. info on D & X in Canada

    Lautens also seriously distorts the issue by making no mention of the critical distinction between third-trimester and second-trimester intact D&X’s. By so doing, he and all other anti’s leave open the false and slanderous implication that healthy women are casually aborting their healthy near-term fetuses. Nothing could be further from the truth. Third-trimester intact D&X’s are done only in cases of severe fetal defects incompatible with life, or where the mother’s life or health is at grave risk. Further, less than 500 third-trimester procedures are performed each year in the United States (none in Canada), and about 3000 or so second-trimester procedures, all together, a minuscule one-third of one percent of all U.S. abortions. (In Canada, second-trimester D&X’s are extremely rare—perhaps one every several years, and never over 20 weeks.)

    Ironically, pro-choice efforts to reduce the number of second-trimester abortions by any method are hampered by anti-choice restrictions to access, funds, and information, which cause delays for women seeking abortions. This proves that the anti-choice are exploiting the intact D&X issue as a means to an end. Their main concern is not to reduce or eliminate late-term abortions, but to ban all abortions. In other words, women’s rights and women’s health are completely irrelevant to them.

    from here


  5. Bears repeating:

    Ironically, pro-choice efforts to reduce the number of second-trimester abortions by any method are hampered by anti-choice restrictions to access, funds, and information, which cause delays for women seeking abortions. This proves that the anti-choice are exploiting the intact D&X issue as a means to an end.


  6. merle, perhaps. but what if the pregnancy she had would have killed her? for example, i have had 2 ectopic pregnancies, both were aborted. one was before my fallopian tube ruptured, one after. either way, had i not had the pregnancies surgically removed i would have died. in fact the 2nd one nearly did kill me.


  7. she could have lived by simply not having the abortion-period.

    Fatal car crash victims could have lived by simply not getting into the driver (or passenger) seat–period.

    Got what she deserved, eh Merle?


  8. :D Why halo thar, mizz bd! Welcome to our ‘umble abode.

    God doesn’t permit ectopic pregnancies, if you’re Righteous.

    Hah! If one takes one John Calvin seriously, ‘Righteousness’ has nothing to do with it:

    …all people are entirely at the mercy of God, who would be just in condemning all people for their sins but who has chosen to be merciful to some. One person is saved while another is condemned, not because of a foreseen willingness, faith, or any other virtue in the first person, but because God sovereignly chose to have mercy on him.

    In other words, God really does have a sick sense of humour.


  9. SASSYWHO,———–Removal of an ectopic pregnancy or a cancerous uterus does not constitute an abortion.———–Both Prolifers and the Catholic church recognize them as legitiment and morally sound surgical procedures.———The reason given is that you forsee that the child will die but you didn`t intend it`s death.———-Some will say that is splitting hairs.—————-However, the relevent question from a moral and ethical standpoint is,”Would you do the surgical procedure if a child were not present?”———-And of course the answer is “Yes”.


  10. dr.J.P.Lukenda, removing an ectopoic pregnancy is an abortion, a necessary one, but an abortion… i still required a D&C. and I would hardly see the need to do the surgery if there wasn’t a fetus present. There are countries where abortion because of an ectopic is still outlawed.


  11. There are countries where abortion because of an ectopic is still outlawed.

    Or at least De facto outlawed, like in (eg) Nicaragua:

    Even according to the government’s own figures, maternal mortality has shot up by 100 percent in the past year. One woman died in April from an untreated ectopic pregnancy — that is, when a fertilized egg is implanted outside the uterus and has no chance of survival. Normally, doctors around the world intervene as soon as the ectopic pregnancy is detected. But Nicaraguan doctors are now reluctant to act out of fear that their interventions might be considered criminal.

    Or how about El Salvador?

    In El Salvador, women who develop ectopic pregnancies — when a fertilized egg gets stuck in a fallopian tube, giving it no chance of survival — are kept under guard in a hospital. A prosecutor must certify that the embryo has died or the woman’s tube has ruptured before doctors can intervene.

    A woman’s life is in severe danger by the time a medical practitioner has jumped through the required doctrinal hoops; because of this (among many, many other reasons), the Church should have no place in the operating room.



  12. Though Sassywho and some others might define surgery to save a mother`s life during pregnancy as an abortion ,ethical physicians do not.——————-By the time most ectopic surgery is done,the developing baby is dead and often destroyed by the hemorrhage. In any case ,such surgery is done to save the life of the mother.————-This is good medical practice because there is no chance for the baby to survive.————–Even if a yet-alive, tiny baby were removed from the tube, pro-lifers and ethical physicians would allow this, for without the procedures both would die.—————-If medical technology were advanced enough to allow transplanting the baby from it`s pathological location, and placing it into the uterus, then most ethicists would say that this should be done.————–Since this is not possible with the present technology, The tiny new baby`s life will be lost.


  13. The same applies in the removal or treatment of a cancerous or traumatized pregnant uterus, or some other organ while the mother is pregnant————Treatment or surgery are done to prevent the death of the mother. The death of the baby, if it occurs, would be an unfotunate and undesired secondary effect.If at all possible,the baby should also be saved.


  14. Cute. Totally ignores the point (likely deliberate, which is to be expected), but stays away from typical trollish hystrionics, which is refreshing. I’d give it 2 out of three billy goats gruff.

    Getting back to reality and away from the ectopic (and speculative) drift, women have died and will continue to die in increased numbers due to overly-restrictive abortion regulations in Latin America–all thanks to Catholic squick re: abortion (yes, abortion–in which the tiny little FETUS is aborted . EWWWW!!1 )

    BTW, are you an actual medical practitioner, or are you a ‘Dr’ in the Rusty Shackleford sense of the word (which is to say, not at all)?


  15. That didn’t really answer my question, other than you do have a doctorate of sorts (Theology FTW!)

    Ok, since I’m bored, we’ll let the topic drift a bit and mingle with the trolls. The good doctor seems firmly convinced that abortion is the cold blooded murder of tiny wittle babiez!!11, so further discussion of squicky fetalcide seems fruitless.

    Dr. Lukenda: Is your title honourary, research, professional ? If professional, are you a medical practitioner? And, if so, what is your specialty? GP, psychiatry, emergency, surgeon, specialist (please tell me you’re not an obstetrician)?

    Regardless, why do you feel the need to sign your comments with your title? Are you attempting to give your points extra weight by including the formal salutation? Argumentum ad verecundiam is a fallacy, btw.

    (I know, I know: DNFTT — again, I’m bored. Worse comes to worse, we release the monkeys after happy hour.)


  16. mattt, thanks for holding down the fort, you know how crazy mondays are for me.

    i seriously doubt the doc is a MD, otherwise he would know that treating an ectopic pregnancy is an abortion.

    regardless, that seemed to be the only piece he had to add to the conversation despite evidence that if abortion is banned it is banned in all cases.


  17. I knew Laura. She was a really good woman. You all have no right to talk shit, we all have our flaws. She made a mistake that took her life. That’s all it was.

    Laura, you will be missed. We love you.


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