Opinion: When I had my miscarriage, I could access the care I needed. A Supreme Court decision might change that.

Being able to access the medical care you or your loved ones need should not be a matter of luck or timing.

(J. Scott Applewhite | The Associated Press) The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, D.C.

I remember the bright red drop of blood on my shoe as I wrapped up a meeting at work. At just shy of nine weeks pregnant, I was having a miscarriage. I knew something was wrong when the ultrasound the week before showed the fetus wasn’t developing right. I had no idea how fast an unviable pregnancy could resolve itself, if it would. And I was shocked by the amount of blood and how quickly it came once it started.

I excused myself from the meeting, cleaned myself up and went out to my car to call my midwife. She reassured me that what I was experiencing was normal. She asked if it would be possible for me to take the rest of the day off to rest. I was incredibly lucky. I had access to quality health care and good insurance, a stable job that allowed me time off and a supportive home life to help care for my toddler. Before I ended the conversation with my healthcare provider and headed home, I recall her instructions, “Head to the hospital if you develop a fever, severe cramping, foul smelling discharge or deep body aches.” Luckily, I didn’t experience any of those symptoms or other complications and that pregnancy ended without the need for medical intervention.

Should I have needed medical care for my miscarriage, the standard intervention would be — by all definitions — an abortion.

This experience has been on my mind as I followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing on Idaho’s challenge to EMTALA. This 40-year-old law, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, requires hospitals that accept Medicare dollars (most major hospitals) to stabilize patients seeking emergency medical care regardless of their ability to pay, insurance status, race, creed or national origin.

Idaho already has one of the cruelest and most restrictive abortion bans in the nation. It’s so bad that doctors are advising their pregnant patients to purchase emergency medical evacuation insurance — the same coverage used by extreme mountain climbers — in case they need to be airlifted out of the state for medical care. Idahoans who become pregnant face fear, chaos and a harder time making an appointment: 22% of Idaho’s OB-GYNs have left the state in the last year according to a report covered by Boise Public Radio. But that wasn’t enough. Idaho also challenged the ability of pregnant patients facing severe medical emergencies to rely on EMTALA to get the care they needed — including abortions — at hospital emergency rooms.

Now, these patients are seeking refuge and care in neighboring states, like Utah, where abortion remains legal up to 18 weeks. But Utah’s abortion access is at risk, too. If the Utah Supreme Court allows Utah’s near total abortion ban to go into effect — which could happen any day — we will be just like Idaho, and thousands of Utah patients will be forced to travel even further to receive care, putting them at even greater risk of complications. When Utah politicians claim that their ban is somehow better than bans in other states, just remember that’s exactly what the politicians in the other states are telling their constituents.

The fact is that every abortion ban reaches into the most private and personal decisions in someone’s life and always makes pregnancy and childbirth much more dangerous. And the situation could become perilous for everyone if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees with Idaho’s willingness to endanger the safety of pregnant people and rewrites EMTALA to allow emergency rooms across the nation to refuse to provide life-saving care when people need it most.

This entire situation is shocking and very real. Abortion bans cause actual harm. Horror stories from every state with an active abortion ban tell us that the exceptions do not work, people suffer, and routine medical care becomes complex and inaccessible.

When I had my miscarriage, I was lucky to be able to access the care I needed. At no point did my medical provider say, “You need this type of care, but the state won’t allow me to do it. You need to fly to another state.” Being able to access the medical care you or your loved ones need should not be a matter of luck or timing. It’s what you and everyone deserve.

(Photo courtesy of Nicholas Steffens) Shireen Ghorbani

Shireen Ghorbani is the chief corporate affairs officer for Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. She is a mother and a former Salt Lake County councilmember.

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