How abortion bans put hopeful mothers at risk. Oak Fire grows to 17,000 acres, threatens Yosemite. Pope in Canadian apology tour over Indian boarding schools.
How abortion bans are putting hopeful mothers at risk
Elizabeth Weller, 26, of Houston, TX, recently shared her nightmarish story of pregnancy healthcare limbo, a direct result of her state’s near total abortion ban. Weller and her husband were delighted when they conceived soon after they decided to try for a baby. At first, everything progressed smoothly. Then, at 18 weeks of pregnancy, Elizabeth’s water broke unexpectedly. Such ruptures affect about 3% of pregnancies. Elizabeth’s OBGYN told her that the loss of amniotic fluid meant there was nearly no chance that she would be able to bring a fully-developed baby to term.
With the tragic fate of her unborn daughter now a foregone conclusion, Elizabeth did not anticipate that her own health would be put in the crosshairs. “I have said throughout my life I believe that women should have the access to the right to an abortion,” Elizabeth said. “I personally would never get one”.
If Elizabeth had lived in a state with free access to abortion, her doctors would have performed a termination right away. But in Texas, the so-called Heartbeat Act forbids terminations once a fetal heartbeat is detectable. Though it was certain Elizabeth’s baby would not survive, the baby’s heart was still beating. Because of this, doctors said they could not terminate the pregnancy- not until the heart stopped beating or until Elizabeth’s own life was imminently threatened by a “medical emergency”.
So what does “medical emergency” mean?
Most states with abortion bans make exceptions in cases of “medical emergencies” that threaten the life of the mother. But the Texas law, and abortion bans in many other states, do not define what qualifies as a “medical emergency”. Healthcare advocates say that state laws purposefully leave this distinction vague to discourage healthcare providers from performing medically necessary abortions until the mother’s health is at crisis point.
Though she’d already lost her baby, Elizabeth’s ordeal was only just beginning. Her doctor told her to go home and wait for the baby’s heart to stop beating or for the symptoms of the infection already setting in her womb to worsen.
And worsen they did. Elizabeth experienced cramps, bloody and foul smelling discharge. But when she reported these, she was told theses weren’t the right symptoms of a worsening infection. She was told the same when she started vomiting.
Finally, the ethics board of the hospital treating Elizabeth agreed that it was “ridiculous” not to do a termination under these circumstances. At that, Elizabeth and her husband embraced in their relief.
“We shouldn’t have been celebrating,” Elizabeth says. “And yet we were. Because the alternative was hell.”
Pregnancy in the US just got a lot more dangerous
Elizabeth’s story resembles a case that made international headlines last month. An American tourist in Malta was denied a life-saving abortion when she ran into complications in the 20th week of her pregnancy. Like Texas and now many other US states, the tiny European island nation of Malta has a strict ban on abortion. As in Elizabeth’s case, Andrea Prudente, 38, was told to return to her hotel and wait until either her baby died or she herself got sicker. Prudente’s condition worsened until she was finally able to fly to Spain to have her pregnancy terminated.
NPR previously reported on another similar case from Texas before the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. In a post-Roe landscape, any hopeful but unlucky mother can find themselves in the same tragic and traumatizing circumstance that befell Elizabeth and Andrea – and they will.
Oak Fire grows to 17,000 acres, threatens Yosemite
A wildfire has been raging in Mariposa County, CA, for over a week and has forced 6000 people to evacuate. The fire has now burned nearly 17,000 acres and is approaching Yosemite National Park. This is California’s worst wildfire to date in 2022. Firefighters on the ground have it 16% contained despite working in unfavorable wind conditions and rugged terrain.
The fire spread rapidly due to dry conditions in the area’s dense and uncontrolled underbrush. The state fire service has also noticed a lot of “spotting” with the Oak fire. “Spotting” occurs when floating embers from the main body of the blaze ignite another fire some distance away. Firefighters say the Oak fire has managed to spark fires in new locations 2 to 3 air miles away, opening new fronts that can then join up with the main fire.
If the Oak fire reaches Yosemite National Park, it could threaten a large grove containing some of the nation’s largest and oldest sequoia trees. The grove was already under threat from fire once earlier this month, but firefighters managed to save it.
Pope in Canadian apology tour over Indian residential schools
Throughout the 19th century well into the 20th century, the Catholic Church operated hundreds of boarding schools for Native children in the US and Canada. The aim of these schools was to forcibly assimilate Native children into white Christian society. Children were punished for speaking their own Native languages, and many endured abuse of other kinds. Thousands of children also died at these schools due to abuse, disease or malnutrition. More often than not, the children received hasty burials on the grounds of these schools, often without even a marker for their final resting place.
Recent ground penetrating radar studies on the former grounds of these schools have already turned up hundreds of unmarked children’s graves. As these studies progress and expand, more will certainly be found.
Pope Francis is now in Canada, issuing public papal apologies to the still-living survivors of these schools and their descendants. The Pope’s first address took place in northern Alberta. He was introduced there by Chief Wilton Littlechild. Littlechild was himself of a survivor of the nearby Ermineskin Indian Residential School.
Many Native people, including some residential school survivors, traveled for two days hear this first address. Evelyn Korkmaz, a survivor of another Catholic-run residential school where nuns physically and sexually abused children in their care, was present at the ceremony. “I’ve waited 50 years for this apology. And finally today, I heard it,” Korkmaz said.
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