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.
The baby was no longer buoyed in ample amniotic fluid, Deborah’s doctor gently told her. The kidneys were not developing properly, failing to produce the liquid that protects the fetus and promotes the development of vital organs. She didn’t think the baby would survive without a transplant, and she urged Deborah to follow up quickly with a specialist in maternal fetal medicine. A week later the specialist told them that the condition was incompatible with life. The diagnosis was Potter syndrome.
Deborah and Lee Dorbert say the most painful decision of their lives was not honored by the physicians they trust. Even though medical experts expect their baby to survive only 20 minutes to a couple of hours, the Dorberts say their doctors told them that because of the new legislation, they could not terminate the pregnancy. “That’s what we wanted,” Deborah said. “The doctors already told me, no matter what, at 24 weeks or full term, the out come for the baby is going to be the same.”
The combination of a narrow exception to the law and harsh penalties for violating it terrifies physicians, according to Autumn Katz, interim director of litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who has been tracking the implementation of abortion bans across the country. Florida physicians who violate the new law face penalties including the possibility of losing their licenses, steep fines and up to five years in prison. As a result, Katz said, they “are likely to err on the side of questioning whether the conditions are fully met.”
Deborah is due to deliver on approximately the first day of spring.