Texas abortion law forced Marlena Stell to carry dead fetus for 2 weeks after miscarriage, she says

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Marlena Stell’s happiness turned to heartache after she found out about 9 and a half weeks into her pregnancy that she had suffered a miscarriage.

After learning last year that the fetus had no heartbeat and she no longer had a viable pregnancy, the Texas woman asked her doctor to perform dilation and curettage, or D and C – a standard procedure for removing the fetus after a miscarriage to help prevent infection or long-term health problems. Stell underwent the procedure after her first miscarriage in 2018 in Washington state, when she was in so much pain she couldn’t walk, and she wanted to do it again before trying again for a second child, he said. she told the Washington Post.

But Stell was even more devastated to learn that because the procedure is also used in abortions, which a Texas law had heavily restricted, the doctor didn’t want to perform a D and C. Stell would be forced to carry her dead fetus. for two weeks. before she could find a provider to give her the medical intervention that doctors had denied her.

“My doctor had said that since the heartbeat bill had just been passed, she didn’t want me to do a D and C. And she asked me to try for a miscarriage at the home,” said Stell, 42, of Conroe, Tex. “It was just emotionally difficult to walk around knowing that I had a dead fetus inside.

Stell, a beauty influencer with around 1.5 million YouTube subscribers, shares her story in the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade to remind that restrictive abortion laws passed by states like Texas could affect those who have suffered miscarriages.

“People need to understand how these laws affect all women, even cases like mine,” she said. “I feel like it’s very dangerous for any government to intervene in a woman’s care because there are a number of reasons why she may need intervention. .”

Stell’s story is an example of what doctors and patients could face when it comes to miscarriage and maternal health care nearly a month after the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

As The Post recently reported, doctors in several states say the standard of care for miscarriages, as well as ectopic pregnancies and other common complications, are being reviewed, delayed or even denied. In Texas – where Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) is suing the Biden administration for federal rules requiring abortions to be performed in medical emergencies to save the life of the mother – some doctors report that pharmacists have begun interviewing patients they suspect of using their miscarriage drugs to abort.

“It’s traumatic to stand in a pharmacy and have to tell them publicly that you’re having a miscarriage, that there’s no heartbeat,” said Rashmi Kudesia, a fertility specialist in Houston, at the Post Saturday.

Post-Roe confusion spurs delays and denials of some vital pregnancy care

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that more than 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, the spontaneous death of a fetus that usually occurs due to chromosomal abnormalities.

The methods of treating miscarriages and abortions are the same. A miscarriage can be treated with a mixture of medications such as mifepristone and misoprostol, or with a D and C, which includes dilation of the cervix and removal of tissue from the cervix. uterus.

After her first miscarriage in 2018, Stell and her husband had their first child, a girl, in April 2020. When the couple moved from Washington State to Texas in 2021, they were trying for a second child, Stell said, even though she knew she was at high risk due to her age, previous health issues and miscarriage. So when she found a doctor who specialized in high-risk pregnancies last summer, she was delighted to find that the first few weeks of her pregnancy looked promising.

“I was about 7 1/2 weeks pregnant and everything looked great,” Stell said. “The doctor said there was movement and flutter, but everything with the pregnancy looked normal.”

Because she was at high risk, Stell was asked to return about two weeks later for a follow-up appointment in late September 2021. Because coronavirus guidelines prevented her husband from accompanying her to the room, she planned to record on her cell phone what the doctor had to say about the ultrasound.

“I get ready to record because I’m excited,” Stell recalled. “But as soon as she started the ultrasound, [the doctor] got really quiet, and I was looking and looking and I couldn’t see the flutter or the movement or anything.

Stell got the news she feared: she had lost the pregnancy. She was told she had an impaired egg, which is when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus but does not develop into an embryo.

She was shocked to learn that the common procedure she obtained so easily in Washington State was anything but simply obtained in Texas. She said she was told she needed further evidence, or more ultrasounds, showing that her pregnancy was not viable before she could get a D and C. Nine days after carrying her dead fetus, the grief from her first miscarriage had returned.

“I felt like a walking coffin,” she said, crying. “You walk around knowing you have something that you hoped would be a baby for you, and off you go. And you just walk around carrying it.

Stell eventually found an abortion provider in downtown Houston who would give her the D and C on October 4, 2021. After being met by anti-abortion protesters, Stell opened up about the experience on her channel Youtube. While Stell, a cosmetics brand owner and CEO, usually talks about makeup education and other beauty and lifestyle content, the influencer’s miscarriage video showed another side.

“I’m so angry that I was treated this way because of laws passed by men who have never been pregnant and never will be,” Stell told her supporters at the time. “I’m frustrated, I’m angry and I feel like the women here deserve better than this. It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you want to sit on, laws like this affect all women, no matter what situation you find yourself in, and that’s not fair.

When deer was canceled last month, Stell said it was her duty to share her story with those who might have similar experiences. After Stella told his story to CNN this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was among those to to quote her as an example of how “Republican politicians are risking the health and safety of women.”

Stella said on Twitter this week that the experience of nearly 10 months ago is the reason she and her husband have decided not to try for more children in Texas. She told the Post that her two miscarriages put her at higher risk for a third.

“Our fear is that if I get pregnant and miscarry again, something will happen,” she said. “We’re just not confident that we’ll get the care we need in Texas if anything were to happen.”

Had the miscarriage not occurred, Stell and her husband would have had a boy in May. They would have named it Milan. She thinks about what could have been when she reflects on her own story and how she said she felt like she had done something wrong when she was already grieving.

“It’s additional trauma on top of the trauma,” she said. “It’s important to share this story so people know how these laws affect all women.”

Frances Stead Sellers and Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.

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