Strict Abortion Law Forced Woman to Give Birth to Baby Without a Brain or Skull, Knowing It Would Die

An abortion provider has spoken of treating a woman who was forced to give birth to a baby she knew would die as she wasn't allowed access to an abortion.

In an essay entitled "The Myth of Choice," published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, an anonymous doctor wrote of a patient whose fetus had no brain or no skull, but only a stem.

"This condition has no survivors. None," the doctor wrote.

The pregnant woman was unable to visit the doctor sooner as she didn't have a car and her partner—the baby's father—worked long hours as a cash-paid laborer.

Using an interpreter, the doctor told the woman of her fetus' fatal condition.

"You wait for the patient to break the silence," the essay reads. "The baby's heartbeat trots through the monitors while you softly hold her gaze. Her eyes plead with you. End it. You talk to the obstetricians, because eventually it will end. But nobody will do it. Not in this state. Not in this hospital. And so, the mother goes home, pregnant and grieving."

A few days later, the mother returned to the hospital miscarrying, and had to give birth to a fetus she and doctors knew would die shortly after.

"The baby is born with no skull, eyes like gumballs too big for their sockets. Alive, briefly. It hurts to look," the physician detailed.

"Some of the nurses need you to fix it, to save this baby with the magic of medicine. You remind them that he is very premature, that he has no brain, that he cannot survive. This is not an ambiguous diagnosis."

The doctor encouraged the mother to hold her newborn child, but she refused "because once seen it cannot be unseen" and she didn't want to form a bond.

"Gently, the baby dies. He is warm, whole, and not alone," the doctor wrote. "There are no doughnuts at the nurses' station that night as this young mother is wheeled to a room in the back corner of labor and delivery, away from the other mothers and their pink, crying babies."

This is not the first time the doctor has had to care for a woman "whose wishes were warped by politics." The doctor went on to describe how money is too often spent on attempting to save babies born with fatal diagnoses who go on to die as expected.

"You've enabled false hopes, not for cures but for time to bond, hope, and heal. It is the parents you are healing. The hope's false. All these children died in the end," the essay concluded.

The essay has been published as a wave of anti-abortion laws have been passed in U.S. states. On Thursday, Louisiana became the latest in a string of states cutting back access to abortion, when its Governor signed a bill restricting the procedure after what has been dubbed a "fetal heartbeat" can be detected. This is generally at six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant. It is the fifth state to pass a so-called heartbeat law, following Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi.

However, Dr. Jennifer Kerns, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California San Francisco, recently told Newsweek the use of the term "heartbeat" is intentionally misleading in order to invoke an emotional response.

"It's used to distract people from the actual intention [of legislators], which is essentially to ban abortion outright," said Kerns.

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Abortion rights activists rally in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on May 21, 2019. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images
Strict Abortion Law Forced Woman to Give Birth to Baby Without a Brain or Skull, Knowing It Would Die | Health