Last week a woman from Ohio wrote a letter to the editor to her local newspaper about her daughter being denied an emergency abortion in the midst of a miscarriage, putting her life at risk. The letter thereafter attracted national attention marked at Jessica Valenti abortion, every day Newsletters that shared new, gutting developments in the woman’s story on Tuesday.
Christine Zielke told her story to NPR on Tuesday. the washington, DC, resident learned in July that she was pregnant, and weeks later she learned that the fetus had lost its heartbeat and that her pregnancy hormone levels were dropping. It was clear that the pregnancy was not viable and her doctor told her her options were taking medication to terminate the pregnancy faster, having an abortion with dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove the pregnancy tissue, or to wait to lose the pregnancy naturally. According to Zielke, her doctor recommended the last option. Weeks later, her natural bleeding still hadn’t started, but Zielke felt reassured after reading online that it can take some pregnant women longer than others to miscarry. Then, on Labor Day weekend in September, Zielke and her husband traveled to Ohio for a wedding.
Zielke’s bleeding began on the way to the wedding. She thought she had miscarried and that this would be the last thing, but the next night the bleeding returned and got worse. Zielke told NPR she “passed blood clots the size of golf balls.” She recalled filling the bathtub with blood at her parents’ home in Ohio in the middle of the night and then waking up in the emergency room at TriPoint Medical Center.
When various medical personnel visited and tested Zielke, she continued to bleed nonstop, filling entire diapers with blood, but was told her blood tests showed no significant blood loss. She said she once heard a nurse say that sometimes a D&C is needed to stop heavy bleeding, but no one offered her the procedure. Two and a half hours later, she was discharged from the emergency room; Zielke and her husband Greg Holeyman disagreed, but Zielke says they were told that in order for them to offer D&C, doctors had to “prove there was no fetal development” — or that the fetus was actually dead prompted her to do so. “Come back in two days for a repeat hormone test to confirm I’ve had a miscarriage.”
Ohio currently has an abortion ban that prohibits an abortion after six weeks. The only exception is cases where there is an imminent threat to the life of the pregnant person, but as experts have long pointed out, the ambiguity in this regard and the high risk for doctors of being criminalized for performing abortions can increase result in such exceptions if not useless, then dangerously exclusionary.
With no other choice, Zielke and Holeyman walked back to Zielke’s childhood home, and as she entered, she recalled that there blood was already “running into my shoes.” As she lay back in her parents’ bathtub, she continued to bleed profusely, and a nurse at an emergency number told her to return to the emergency room. As Zielke took photos of the blood filling the bathtub — in her words “just trying to prove what happened because I felt like I wasn’t believed” — she said she felt “that the world slipped away” and passed out. Holeyman told NPR he believes his wife almost died. When an ambulance arrived, she had to be carried out of the tub and into the vehicle.
Zielke was rushed to the same emergency room she was discharged from hours earlier and was eventually given an emergency room on life support. After the procedure, she and her husband declined the hospital’s offer to stay overnight. “It wasn’t a place where I felt safe,” she said.
In a statement to NPR, the university hospitals that operate TriPoint Medical Center declined to confirm details of what happened due to patient privacy policies. However, a spokesman told the outlet: “University hospitals comply with Ohio laws. Our position has always been that healthcare decisions are best made between the patient and her doctor.”
Mike Gonidakis, an anti-abortion activist who inexplicably sits on the state’s medical board, told NPR that the state’s abortion law cannot be blamed for Zielke’s experience. But regardless of the exceptions laid down in the abortion ban for life-threatening pregnant women, the impending prison sentence inevitably affects medical care. If emergency care is denied or delayed as a result, the consequences can be fatal: In Poland, which issued an almost complete ban on abortion in 2021, which at least also provides for an exception for life-threatening conditions for pregnant women two women have died after contracting sepsis because doctors didn’t believe they could legally perform abortions to remove dead, unviable fetuses; A woman died after being forced to carry a dead fetus for a week.
That could easily have happened to Zielke. We have already seen cases in Texas and Louisiana where abortion laws in those states forced people to carry non-viable or dead fetuses for long periods of time, putting them at risk of fatal sepsis infection. Hypotheses about whether a dead fetus is really dead, or whether emergency care can land a doctor in jail, are being placed above the real life, health, and safety of pregnant people.
One of the most devastating aspects of Zielke’s story that I will remember is her own words about feeling like the ER “didn’t believe” her and that she didn’t feel safe in the hospital. Experiences with medical gaslighting and the discharge of women and pregnant people have always been widespread, but our postroe Reality is making things worse quickly and exponentially.
https://jezebel.com/ohio-woman-denied-emergency-abortion-filled-diapers-wit-1849788247 Woman denied emergency abortion in Ohio filled diapers with blood and nearly died