A hospital in Jefferson City, Missouri is currently under investigation after denying a pregnant woman an emergency abortion. Doctors informed Mylissa Farmer in August that the chances of her baby surviving were slim, and waiting any further may be life-threatening. Because of Missouri’s strict abortion laws, she was forced to drive to Illinois to receive her abortion, and now the Freeman Health System in Missouri is being investigated for possibly infringing upon federal law.
Farmer explained that she felt powerless in this situation, and The National Women’s Law Center as well as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services responded by taking on her case. The 41-year old said the doctors denied her of necessary care and it was a dehumanizing and terrifying experience travelling hours to find a hospital that would perform the procedure.
The doctors stated that whether they deemed this decision medically appropriate or not, the state law supersedes their opinion and prevents them from acting upon their medical judgement. While Farmer was at serious risk of deadly infection or losing her uterus, the doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy due to a bill passed on June 24, 2022 that banned abortions where the fetus’s heartbeat could be detected. This law has raised many questions from hospitals who remain uncertain as to when someone is qualified for an abortion. Medical emergencies are exempt from this ban, but the explanation for such situation is unclear and leaves healthcare providers to have the final say. Hospitals across Missouri have ultimately decided to turn down abortion treatment to avoid legal repercussions.
The Biden administration, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, firmly assert that abortions are permitted if the mother is experiencing a dire medical emergency. However, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade legislation last summer, almost 24 states across the country have limited and illegalized abortion care. This ruling has allowed individual states to enact their own abortion policies, and the Missouri hospital who refused Farmer argues that their actions are legally permissible.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service have since notified the hospital with formal warnings stating that they violated federal law and must compensate Farmer.
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