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She was all for the new draconian Texas abortion ban, until it almost killed her daughter

Kelsie Norris-De La Cruz tried not to cry as the doctor in the emergency room delivered one of the most frightening diagnoses a pregnant woman can receive.

The 25-year-old college senior was told she likely had an ectopic pregnancy, a highly dangerous condition where the embryo implants outside of the uterus. Without immediate treatment, the fallopian tube can rupture — and the patient can die.

The law that has prohibited abortions in Texas since Roe v. Wade was overturned now explicitly allows doctors to treat ectopic pregnancies. But when doctors at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital evaluated Norris-De La Cruz last week, they refused to terminate the pregnancy,saying there was some chance the pregnancy was still viable, Norris-De La Cruz recalled. Instead, they advised her and her mother to go home and wait, according to medical records reviewed by The Washington Post.

Norris-De La Cruz ultimately received emergency surgery about 24 hours later at a different hospital in the area, at which point her ectopic pregnancy had already started to rupture. The OB/GYN who performed the procedure said that, if Norris-De La Cruz had waited much longer, she would have been “in extreme danger of losing her life.”

“I was scared I was going to … lose my entire reproductive system if they waited too long,” Norris-De La Cruz said in an interview two days after her surgery. “I knew it could happen at any moment.”

Her case highlights a chilling reality of post-Roe America:Medical exceptions to abortion bans have not stopped doctors from turning away patients with significant pregnancy complications, often with harrowing consequences.Their stories underscore the messy collision between abortion laws and medical diagnoses — and the struggles of doctors and hospitals to navigate what many say are inadequate legal protections to treat women with life-threatening conditions.

In the nearly two years since Roe fell, dozens of women have come forward with stories of medical care denied because of abortion bans, with the changes in treatment bringing some close to death or affecting patients’ future fertility. Several dozen women across the country who experienced pregnancy complications have challenged their state abortion bans in court.

The Post learned of Norris-De La Cruz’s case when her mother, seeking advice, called a Houston reproductive health clinic when a reporter was present. To corroborate Norris-De La Cruz’s account, The Post reviewed dozens of pages of medical records, sonogram images, photos and text messages, and conducted interviews with many of the people involved in the case.

Four OB/GYNs who reviewed Norris-De La Cruz’s medical records for The Post, with Norris-De La Cruz’s permission, said she should have been offered emergency surgery. They said they suspected Texas’s abortion ban played a role in how she was advised.

“That should have been a bread and butter slam dunk diagnosis,” said Clayton Alfonso, an OB/GYN at Duke University. “It doesn’t make sense to me that they would send her away, unless they had a fear that the surgery … could be perceived as causing an abortion.”

Kimberly Walton, the director of media relations for Texas Health, said the hospital’s top priority is “providing our patients with safe, high-quality care.”

“Treatment decisions are individualized based on a patient’s clinical condition and we believe the care provided to the patient in this case was appropriate,” she wrote in a statement.

Walton did not answer a written question about whether the delay in Norris’s care was related to the abortion law. The doctors who sent Norris home did not respond to requests for comment.

A Republican state senator who has spearheaded much of Texas’s antiabortion legislation said he was surprised and frustrated to hear about Norris-De La Cruz’s case.

“I don’t know what the excuse would be for a Texas doctor not treating an ectopic pregnancy, because that’s not the law,” said Sen. Bryan Hughes, who sponsored a law last year specifying that Texas doctors are permitted to treat ectopic pregnancies, a follow-up to Texas’s abortion ban meant to prevent cases like this one.

But many doctors consider even Hughes’s follow-up law, which took effect in September, to be an inadequate tool for treating patients like Norris-De La Cruz amid a complicated post-Roe landscape. Ectopic pregnanciesin the fallopian tube, which never survive to term, can be hard to diagnose on an ultrasound with 100 percent certainty, several doctors said — and if the diagnosis is wrong, a doctor might fear potential legal repercussions for terminating a viable pregnancy.

After the first of two OB/GYNs at Arlington Memorial refused to treat Norris-De La Cruz, her mother, Stephanie Lloyd, immediately thought about Texas’s abortion ban.

“Does this have anything to do with the abortion law?” she remembered asking the doctor.

When he didn’t answer, Lloyd recalled, she had to restrain Norris-De La Cruz as her daughter tried to launch herself at him.

“Whenever I f—ing rupture,” Norris-De La Cruz said, “I’m giving my lawyers your f—ing name.”

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Last modified: June 24, 2024

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