Sat, 18 February 2023 at 7:51 pm GMT
In a few weeks, a Florida couple will have to bid farewell to their child shortly after the baby is delivered, a gut-wrenching reality created by the US supreme court’s elimination of nationwide abortion rights last year.
Because of a new Florida law that bans abortion after 15 weeks except under certain circumstances, Deborah Dorbert has become one of many women having difficulty accessing necessary abortion procedures after the supreme court overturned the rights granted by the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision.
A report by the Washington Post chronicles how Dorbert and her husband, Lee Dorbert, are expecting their second child and have been told by doctors that the baby has been diagnosed with a fatal fetal abnormality known as Potter syndrome. But, they have said, the doctors could not perform an abortion because of their interpretation of a Florida law that took effect after the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade.
Potter syndrome is a rare condition related to a fetus’s development in the uterus. The syndrome is a result of abnormal kidney growth and function, which affects how much amniotic fluid surrounds the fetus during pregnancy.
It has been deemed a “doubly lethal diagnosis” because babies with malfunctioning kidneys can’t remove deadly toxins from their bodies and can in turn experience renal failure. Additionally, the absence of amniotic fluid in a womb causes a baby to be born without the ability to breathe.
According to Florida’s Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality law, which was implemented last July, abortions are prohibited after 15 weeks of gestation, with a few exceptions, including one that would allow for a later abortion “if two physicians certify in writing that the fetus has a fatal fetal abnormality and has not reached viability.
Last November, when the couple’s baby was diagnosed with the syndrome, a maternal fetal medicine specialist told the Dorberts that some parents choose to continue to full term while others opt to terminate the pregnancy through surgery or preterm labor.
The doctor added that he would consult with health system administrators regarding the new law, the Washington Post reports. The Dorberts eventually decided that they would like to terminate the pregnancy as early as they could because babies with the syndrome often die before they are born or end up suffocating within minutes or hours after their delivery.
Deborah Dorbert told the outlet that she recalled the specialist saying that the termination might be possible – but not until between 28 and 32 weeks.
Then, after the specialist consulted with health system administrators regarding the new law, the couple was told that they would have to wait to terminate the pregnancy until the 37th week of gestation – or near full term.
According to a text message Deborah Dorbert received from the coordinator at a maternal fetal medicine office that she visits often, the specialist made his determination after having legal administrators “look at the new law and the way it’s written”, the Washington Post reported.
“It’s horribly written,” the message added.
Despite the specialist telling the couple that other states had fewer restrictions on abortion access, the Dorberts told the Post that they were overwhelmed by travel costs and had only left their state a few times.
The couple, who have not learned the baby’s sex because its legs were crossed or the umbilical cord was in the way during each scan, eventually opted to provide palliative care to their child after the baby is born.
“That’s been very important to us, understanding that we do have that control back at least in some of these decisions,” Lee Dorbert told the Washington Post.
Nevertheless, the new law – which punishes physicians who violate it with penalties including license revocation, hefty fines and five years or more of jail time – has left the couple angry and frustrated.
“It makes me angry, for politicians to decide what’s best for my health,” Deborah Dorbert told the Washington Post. “We would do anything to have this baby.”
“We have never really understood,” Lee Dorbert said, adding: “We were told there was an exception … Obviously, [it’s] not enough of an exception in some cases.”
Despite the pain that the Dorberts and couples in similar situations are experiencing, the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has maintained a staunch anti-abortion stance.
Earlier this month, DeSantis said that he would sign a six-week abortion ban if one passed.
“We’re for pro-life,” DeSantis said. “I urge the legislature to work, produce good stuff, and we will sign. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”