A Tennessee Woman Had to Take a 6-Hour Ambulance Ride to Get an Abortion


And who pays the costs?  Both medical and personal.  Hugs

·3 min read
Photo:  Paul Burns (Getty Images)
Photo: Paul Burns (Getty Images)

A pregnant Tennessee woman with high and rising blood pressure had to take a roughly six-hour ambulance ride to get an abortion in North Carolina, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. When she got to the second hospital several hundred miles away, her blood pressure was dangerously high and she was showing signs of kidney failure.

The woman’s doctor in Tennessee, Leilah Zahedi-Spung, is a high-risk obstetrician who spoke to the WSJ for a story about how abortion bans impact medical emergencies. Zahedi-Spung said the patient was in her second trimester when her blood pressure began rising; the fetus had been diagnosed with genetic abnormalities and wasn’t expected to survive. Zahedi-Spung worried the woman could develop life-threatening preeclampsia and thought she needed an abortion, but the procedure has been banned in Tennessee since late August. Eight states border Tennessee and abortion is banned in all but two of them.

“She kept asking if she was going to die,” Zahedi-Spung told the WSJ. “I kept saying, ‘I’m trying, I’m trying, we’re going to make it happen. We just need to get you to the right place where you can be taken care of.’” She said she was relieved to see the patient alive a few weeks later.

The Tennessee law, which makes providing abortions a felony, doesn’t contain explicit exceptions for abortions “necessary to prevent death or serious and permanent bodily injury”—instead, doctors have to prove the procedure was necessary via what’s known as an “affirmative defense.” The Associated Press described affirmative defense this way: “Instead of the state having to prove that the procedure was not medically necessary, the law shifts the burden to the doctor to convince a court that it was.” (Bans in North Dakota and Idaho—both of which are currently blocked—also use affirmative defense language.)

Given these realities, Zahedi-Spung said she feared if she performed the medically necessary abortion, the state would still charge her with a crime that would lead to a long legal fight and upend her ability to practice medicine.

Even bans that don’t require an affirmative defense and have more standard exceptions for the “life of the pregnant person”—like, for instance, treating ectopic pregnancies—are often meaningless in practice. Perhaps the hospital lawyers don’t want to risk a lawsuit, or the doctors themselves may fear legal action (and many have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt and their own families to provide for). But it’s easy enough for a part-time state lawmaker to throw some words into a bill.

Zahedi-Spung spoke to the WSJ in her personal capacity and didn’t name her employer. Multiple OB/GYNs recently told CNN that their employers are muzzling them from talking about the impacts of abortion bans—whether they work in states where their patients can’t access the procedure, or in places where people are traveling to get care.

Zahedi-Spung decided it’s too risky for her to practice in Tennessee and recently accepted a job in Colorado where abortion is legal. It’s a predictable loss of a medical provider thanks to a hostile environment. Per the WSJ:

Chloe Akers, a criminal defense attorney based in Knoxville, Tenn., read the law after Roe fell and was surprised to see it contained no exceptions, only defenses that doctors could use after the fact. She founded a nonprofit Standing Together Tennessee and began giving seminars to doctors and others about the law.

Ms. Akers tells healthcare providers there are ways to manage risk, such as keeping robust records of their decision making. But if a doctor asks how to take that risk to zero, she answers, “You stop providing obstetric care in the state.”

Let this story be a reminder that abortion bans harm everyone who can get pregnant.

4 thoughts on “A Tennessee Woman Had to Take a 6-Hour Ambulance Ride to Get an Abortion

    1. Hello Nan. You and I agree so what I am going to write is sort of “preaching to the choir”. We both know if men who are in charge could or did get pregnant and had these issues abortion on demand would be a national right and a clinic on every corner like the old-time photo mats. Second if women were in charge this wouldn’t be an issue because female rights wouldn’t be second to the breeding demands of men. To me this is what these anti-abortion laws are, a man insisting his right to offspring has more rights and priority than the life of a woman whose job is to furnish those offspring. To me that is really what is the idea deeply behind the idea of the repeated phrase that every fetus is a human being that takes priority over a living breathing adult woman. Woman has no worth other than what she can do for man, child might be boy with value or girl to be sold / used. Yes that is really an old centuries gone by idea, but it is still the hidden mind set of men / religious leaders. It was the way women / kids were looked at in the bible / those times and I really think there are far too many people in this country who still feel that way. One thing that makes me think of that, trophy wives. Old men mostly of means, who divorce older wives and marry young women that most serve their sexual fantasies. Matt Walsh who rails against the gays and has led the charge against trans kids, was found to have a video promoting sex with 13 year old girls and claiming it is normal for men to take 16 year old girls as wives because that is the best time for the girls to give birth. It is medically wrong! It is morally wrong to have sex with 13 year old girls! this is a man making a moral argument against trans girls, and now I can understand why maybe. But this right wing religious crusader is on video talking about how men should use 16 year old girls for breeding. He just confirmed what I think the mindset of the anti-abortion leadership is really about. Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ali. This is a great story that deserves a post of its own. Thank you so much for sharing this with me / us. I will put it in a post now. Working together we all share knowledge one person alone wouldn’t be able or have time to find. Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

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