June 20, 2024

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Woman, 25, with life-threatening ectopic pregnancy is refused treatment by Texas hospital – because doctors say it constitutes an abortion

A Texas woman with a potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy was denied emergency treatment due to concerns about the state’s stringent abortion ban.

Texas has imposed a near-total ban on abortions and, despite the law including exemptions for cases of extreme danger to the mother, doctors have been hesitant to provide care in rare circumstances for fear of government-issued penalties.

Kelsie Norris-De La Cruz, a 25-year-old college senior, was told that her ectopic pregnancy – a situation when the embryo grows outside the uterus – could cause her fallopian tube to rupture, causing major internal bleeding.

Yet she claims physicians at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital refused to terminate the pregnancy, saying there was some chance the pregnancy was still viable. 

She underwent emergency surgery at a different hospital when doctors realized when the ectopic pregnancy began to rupture, saying that if she had waited any longer, she would have been ‘in extreme danger of losing her life.’ 

An ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, almost always result in pregnancy loss because the embryo cannot develop properly in these locations

An ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, almost always result in pregnancy loss because the embryo cannot develop properly in these locations

The above map shows abortion bans by state, including those where the procedure is banned from fertilization except in medical emergencies

The above map shows abortion bans by state, including those where the procedure is banned from fertilization except in medical emergencies

Ms Norris-De La Cruz started to cramp and bleed early in her pregnancy. When she went to the hospital, doctors measured her hormone levels, performed an ultrasound, and instructed her to return in 48 hours. 

It’s unclear how or why doctors missed the ectopic pregnancy during that first visit, instead calling it a ‘failed early pregnancy’ 

Ms Norris-De La Cruz felt sick for weeks with severe abdominal pain that made her think she could have appendicitis or a urinary tract infection. 

It wasn’t until a nurse at her campus health center examined her that she went to the hospital. But doctors ultimately declined to operate and discharged her

She was recommended to stay an extra night in the hospital, but the next day, a second OB/GYN said ‘no operation warranted and sent her home.’

Meanwhile, her mother Stephanie Lloyd was trying to find an abortion provider in the state who could help her daughter, with no success. 

Finally, after texting a photo of her troubling sonogram to a friend who was on the way to see her OB/GYN, Ms Norris-De La Cruz was finally able to see a doctor, Jeffery Morgan, who immediately identified it as an ectopic pregnancy. 

Ectopic pregnancies cannot progress normally and pose significant risks to the mother's health, including internal bleeding if the ectopic pregnancy ruptures [Stock image]

Ectopic pregnancies cannot progress normally and pose significant risks to the mother’s health, including internal bleeding if the ectopic pregnancy ruptures [Stock image]

Dr Morgan operated and was able to remove the ectopic pregnancy on the right side of her pelvis. But to do so, he had to remove most of her fallopian tube, possibly resulting in a loss of fertility. 

The Texas law stipulates that doctors can end a pregnancy if it is ectopic. Doctors said there was a chance the pregnancy could still be viable, though major medical authorties disagree with this. 

Still, most doctors were afraid to perform a procedure that could land them in prison. 

The Texas law says that doctors may terminant a pregnancy when it is ectopic 

But the threat of jail time and six-figure fines for medical professionals has led some hospitals and doctors in the state to deny or delay care.  

Dr Morgan said it ‘baffles’ him that doctors declined to help Ms Norris-De La Cruz, saying: ‘Any kind of ectopic, anything like that is excluded.’ 

Stephanie Lloyd said that she thought the Texas abortion law would only affect people who decided they didn’t want to be pregnant.

She never imagined the law could prevent women like her daughter from accessing lifesaving care. She has since completely changed her mind about abortion bans.

‘I didn’t realize how far it had gone,’ she said. ‘But it has happened to my life now, with my daughter.

She added: ‘Her life has been in danger and affected by someone who was too afraid to help.’

Texas law makes narrow exceptions to save the life of the mother, including in cases of ectopic pregnancies. 

But the threat of six-figure fines and jail time has had a chilling effect on hospitals where doctors have denied life saving care. 

Any Texas woman seeking an abortion have to travel out of state to get one. 

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