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NPR’s dishonest attempt to blame pro-life laws for medical neglect

by | Nov 21, 2022

By Laura Nicole

Abortion supporters frequently tout the falsehood that abortion is necessary for women’s health, and that various state pro-life laws put women in danger. A story published by NPR purports to prove this point, but in fact, what we see is a shocking and preventable case of medical neglect – one that has nothing to do with legal protections for preborn babies.

Tragedy and medical neglect

Christina Zielke tragically discovered she was miscarrying shortly after her positive pregnancy test. Her OB/GYN’s office found there was no heartbeat, and that her HCG levels were dropping instead of increasing – an unmistakable sign of miscarriage, as levels should nearly double every 24 hours in early pregnancy. On the way to a friend’s wedding in Ohio, she began bleeding profusely, passing golf ball-sized clots and soaking through clothes. Eventually, she went to the emergency room.

At University Hospitals TriPoint Medical Center in Painesville, Ohio, she was given a workup and an ultrasound, but despite passing large clots and filling diapers with blood at an alarming rate, she was told she was going to be discharged. Zielke was shocked, and said she still felt that nothing was done. She was still bleeding heavily, as she had been for hours on end, and felt that she was in the middle of a medical emergency. “They said they needed to prove there was no fetal development,” she told NPR. “I was told that I could come back in two days for a repeat hormone test to confirm I was miscarrying.”

Rather than accepting Zielke’s laboratory records, which she was able to pull up on her phone, or contacting her OB/GYN, the medical staff opted to do nothing, and seemed to blame it on Ohio’s pro-life heartbeat law, which has been on indefinite hold since September. “I wish someone had come out and said, ‘Hey, this is a state law, this is what we’re afraid of,’ and was a little more frank,” said Zielke’s husband, Greg Holeyman. Instead, “It was, ‘Well, we don’t know if this [pregnancy] is viable, this could still be viable. This is the information you got in D.C., but we need to confirm it.”

NPR is wrong: Pro-life laws are not to blame

Multiple provisions in Ohio’s law not only define an abortion to clearly exclude miscarriages, but define how to determine a fetal heartbeat, and state that “a person is not in violation of [the heartbeat law] if that person has performed an examination for the purpose of determining the presence of a fetal heartbeat [… and ] that examination does not reveal a fetal heartbeat.” Ohio’s law also exempts abortions for the life and health of the mother, even though a D&C procedure to slow or stop Zielke’s bleeding would not have been an abortion, because the baby was already deceased.

Zielke required treatment for a miscarriage, which is legal in every state. An abortion, defined in state law as “the termination of the life of the unborn human individual the pregnant woman is carrying and whose fetal heartbeat has been detected,” was not possible. The medical staff failed to provide the standard of care for a hemorrhage as a complication of a miscarriage.

Shortly after the release of the NPR story, Ohio Right to Life filed a complaint with the state’s medical board in order to hold the negligent medical providers accountable.

“The lack of proper health care this woman experienced is appalling and should upset every Ohioan,” Director of Communications Elizabeth Whitmarsh said in a statement. “Any woman who experiences a miscarriage should be treated with urgency and competency, not apathy. Based on the reporting by NPR, the hospital nonchalantly checked her vitals, saw that she had been profusely bleeding for hours with no signs of stopping, and still found it reasonable to discharge her. This is wholly unacceptable and does not meet Ohio’s standards of care.”

However, abortion advocates criticized the pro-life organization, calling the move a “smokescreen,” and blamed pro-lifers for the existence of the laws, despite the clear exceptions in the law to almost every aspect of Zielke’s circumstances. “They are not filing this complaint out of concern for her. They are filing this complaint to cover up the fact that they are culpable with what happened,” said Kellie Copeland with Pro-Choice Ohio, according to the Statehouse News Bureau. “They are always trying to put up a smokescreen to hide their true agenda which is to ban abortions in all situations even when a person’s health is at stake. And they’ve never cared, not one bit, about the harm it will do to people.”

But Whitmarsh disagreed. “There is nowhere in Ohio law that it prevents a doctor from caring for a woman suffering from a miscarriage or any other life-threatening situation and anyone claiming otherwise is either ignorant of the law or they have blatant, nefarious motives,” she said.

Editor’s note. This appeared in Live Action News [https://www.liveaction.org/news/npr-pro-life-neglect] and is reposted with permission.

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