A woman from Tennessee was forced to endure a dangerous ectopic pregnancy due to the state’s draconian abortion laws, resulting in her having to deliver her baby several weeks premature and requiring a hysterectomy afterward, which she did not want, in order to save her life.
Physicians at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where Mayron Hollis sought care for her problematic pregnancy last fall, were unable to develop a treatment plan, due largely to the fact that Tennessee has banned abortion completely, except in rare circumstances, and that doctors there felt uneasy about taking other steps to help the patient.
Hollis had a cesarean scar from a previous pregnancy. Around 10 weeks into her pregnancy, it was discovered she had a cesarean pregnancy, a situation where a fertilized egg implants itself onto the scar from a previous cesarean section surgery. The situation can be deeply problematic, as hemorrhaging is possible and a person can die of blood loss or other complications as the fetus develops and the placenta grows outside of the scar and beyond the uterus, attaching itself to other organs in the body.
Hollis could have avoided the situation entirely if she had been able to get an abortion early in her pregnancy. However, on the very day when it was determined by herself and her husband, as well as her doctor, that she should get one, a trigger law in Tennessee banning abortion went into effect, preventing her from obtaining the procedure.
The trigger law was passed in 2019 and did not give much consideration to medical emergencies like Hollis’s — according to ProPublica’s reporting, Republican state legislators passed it for political reasons, not believing that the Supreme Court would overturn the abortion protections established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years earlier. The Court did end up overturning Roe in the summer of last year, just before Hollis’s medical issues began.
Financial issues further restricted Hollis from being able to travel out of state for an abortion elsewhere. Ultimately, she carried on with the pregnancy, which almost ended her life.
Other procedures that Hollis’s doctors at Vanderbilt considered employing to mitigate problems associated with the pregnancy couldn’t be obtained, too, over fears that other physicians in various departments had regarding whether they had the legal authority to pursue them. The only way her doctors believed they could take any action at all was if her life was at risk due to the pregnancy, Hollis said.
“Because of everything that was going on, they didn’t know what was the right thing to do… So the only way to save me was for something bad to happen to me,” she told ABC News.
The placenta did eventually rupture Hollis’s uterine wall, resulting in her needing medical attention, at 25 weeks of pregnancy, for excessive bleeding. But even that wasn’t enough to do something — Hollis stayed in the hospital for four days before being discharged. After one day back at home, she returned to the hospital because the bleeding started again.
At that point, it was determined that an emergency C-section was needed, and that, to save her life after the baby was delivered, Hollis would have to have a hysterectomy.
“I didn’t want the hysterectomy. But they said that was the only way that they could stop the bleeding to help me, so I didn’t have a choice,” Hollis recounted.
Problems for the family lasted long after the pregnancy was over. The baby Hollis delivered required extensive medical care, remaining in an incubator for a month and staying in the hospital for two months after she was delivered. The baby has required multiple hospital visits since, with Hollis detailing one instance in which the child almost died.
“I thought I lost her one time for like five minutes,” Hollis said. “She turned colors and I had to wait on the ambulance to get here, doing CPR and an off-duty cop showed up. He did CPR on the hood of his car and saved her life.”
Tennessee has since updated its abortion ban to allow doctors to take action when a patient’s life is at risk under certain circumstances. However, while the new law addresses ectopic pregnancies, it leaves ambiguities elsewhere by stating that doctors must rely on “reasonable medical” judgments to determine if a person needs an abortion or not, giving doctors little guidance on what they can actually do in emergency situations. The abortion law also provides zero exceptions for rape or incest.
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