As Dr. Mae Winchester performed Tara George’s ultrasound, she knew her baby was in trouble.
During an ultrasound that July, Winchester noticed that there was no amniotic fluid around the baby. More tests that day and the next morning indicated that the baby was in kidney failure and had multiple heart defects.
Medical records put it in cool scientific terms: the baby had “fatal fetal anomalies.”
This harsh reality sends Winchester, Tara, and her husband, Justin, on a fight to get her the right medical care — a fight that pits them against Ohio’s strict abortion laws as well as the hospital itself. Will also build where Winchester works.
In April, Tara, 34, and Justin, 33, were thrilled to learn they were pregnant. They sent ultrasound photos to friends and family and named their baby Griffin. Justin, a game Podcasterbought his son with the logos of his beloved Cleveland teams.
“All I could think about was watching sports, taking him to games, just having fun, having someone to play with,” Justin said. “Just doing everything a father would do with his son. We were so excited.”
“We already had a date picked out for the baby shower,” Tara said. “We were really looking forward to it.”
Tara was 20 weeks pregnant when tests revealed the baby had kidney failure and a heart defect. She and Justin had a painful decision to make.
One option was to continue the pregnancy. Winchester said the baby could be stillborn, but even if it was born alive, it would only live for a few hours at most.
Carrying the baby to term put Tara’s life at risk: she has a blood clotting disorder and an autoimmune condition, which puts her at high risk for bleeding, clotting and preeclampsia – all potentially fatal complications. .
“When you’ve got a kid who’s never going to make it, a kid who’s going to have a potentially very difficult two hours of life, we really have to think hard about whether we’re going to do Tara for him. want to put lives at risk,” Winchester, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, told CNN.
Another option was abortion. After careful consideration, Tara and Justin choose to terminate the pregnancy, both to protect Tara’s life and to spare Griffin suffering.
“I can only imagine being born and not having organs that work at all — that would be horrible,” Tara told CNN.
Winchester tells Tara that he believes she can have an abortion at home in Ohio, though only a few weeks ago, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a Law A ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy took effect.
But she says she consulted an attorney at the hospital, who said Tara couldn’t get an abortion because of the new Ohio law.
“When I had to call Tara and tell her we couldn’t do it — it was really hard,” Winchester said.
“It was scary because not only were we not told, then the next step was to think, OK, who’s going to help us?” Tara said. “Where do we go from here?”
“I’ve never felt more helpless in my life,” Justin added.
Winchester and Georges asked CNN not to name the hospital. CNN reached out to the hospital, and a spokesperson said they “do not comment on the care of an individual patient.”
After Winchester said the hospital’s attorney instructed her not to have an abortion, she contacted her colleagues in nearby states to find the closest possible location where Tara could receive the procedure. The process took several days, in part because there were changes in abortion laws in neighboring states.
“He had to wait,” Winchester said. “And if something happened to him during that waiting period, it would make me feel terrible.”
In the midst of their grief, Tara and Justin made the nearly three-hour drive to Michigan, where they spent two days getting the procedure. Justin told jokes and sang songs to keep Tara’s spirits up, but he knew it was no use.
“It was devastating,” he said.
They had to pay for a hotel and his work as a hairstylist and his work as a quality manager in a steel factory cost him several days’ wages.
But the worst part, Tara said, was how “scary” and “disturbing” it was to be in an unfamiliar hospital with doctors she had never met before.
Six days later, on August 2, Tara suffered a miscarriage in Michigan.
CNN asked Sen. Christina Roegner of Ohio, the primary sponsor of the state’s anti-abortion law, to comment on Tara’s situation. He didn’t answer.
A spokesperson for Ohio Right to Life, which lobbied for Ohio’s anti-abortion law, responded to CNN’s request for comment on Tara’s situation.
“Ohio Right to Life offers our sincere condolences to the couple,” Elizabeth Whitmarsh, a spokeswoman, wrote in an email to CNN. However, the answer to a child’s suffering is not to deliberately hit it. We don’t kill humans simply because of a disease… it is inhumane to treat an unborn child as a pet to ‘put down’ because of a disease.
“It’s absolutely terrifying,” Tara said in response to Whitmarsh’s statement.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” Justin added.
“I don’t think anybody, whether it’s Ohio Right to Life or the government, should presume to make these really personal, life-altering decisions for people,” said Jesse Hill, an attorney with the Ohio Anti-Abortion Association. Fighting pregnancy law. Courts
In her email, Whitmarsh said the protections for mothers under Ohio law are “very clear” and that “the mother’s life is protected by law.”
Hill, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and an expert on reproductive rights, said that’s wrong.
Ohio law allows abortion to “prevent the death” of the mother, or when there is “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”
But Hill says the law doesn’t precisely define what qualifies as a “serious risk,” so doctors and hospitals don’t know under what medical conditions abortion will be legally permitted.
Because Ohio’s law has such severe penalties for violating it — a doctor can face the loss of his medical license, financial damages and jail time — Hill said doctors and hospitals are more likely to violate it. They are also reluctant to go near.
“The doctors just aren’t sure how sick he is,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of fear around him right now.
For example, the Ohio statute lists preeclampsia as a condition that poses a serious risk to the mother, but does not specify whether the mother must have preeclampsia, or only if she has preeclampsia. There is more risk.
“The law may mean that anything less than complete preeclampsia is not going to be enough for a doctor to feel comfortable going forward because it’s not named in the law,” Hill said. , “it is a reasonable reading” that high risk is not enough to warrant an abortion “because if preeclampsia is required by law, then this type suggests that something less than preeclampsia is not enough.” ”
Tara and Justin say they’re sharing their story to help women in states like Ohio who are facing potentially dangerous pregnancies, but don’t have the resources.
“We were lucky enough where we could miss work, we could afford hotels, travel out of state. Not everyone can do that,” Justin said. “I’m so scared for any woman out there who doesn’t have a family or support, doesn’t have a car… what’s she supposed to do?”
Other women have also come forward to tell their stories.
Last week, the model Chrissy Teigen talked about her 2020 pregnancy with her son Jake.
“It became pretty clear halfway through that he wasn’t going to live, and that I wasn’t going to live without some medical intervention,” Teigen said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She explained that she then “had an abortion to save her life for a child that had no chance.”
In July, Marlena Steele She told CNN that because of Texas’ strict abortion laws, she had to walk around with the remains of her dead fetus inside her for at least two weeks.
Earlier this month, Kelly de Spain Like Tara, she was at high risk for pregnancy complications and was carrying a baby that wouldn’t survive long outside the womb, told CNN. DeSpain was unable to get an abortion in Texas and had to drive 10 hours to New Mexico to get the procedure.
On September 14, an Ohio judge Temporarily blocked The state’s abortion law restores abortion access in the state up to 14 days up to 20 weeks after fertilization.
Justin and Tara still want to have a family, but Ohio’s changing laws make them “nervous” and “uncertain” because they have “no idea what the laws are.” [will] It seems,” said Tara.
“All our family is here, our friends are here, our jobs are here,” she said. “[We’re] Just trying to hope something gets better so we can stay here.