Letter to the editor: I dodged a bullet

Reproductive rights advocates demonstrate in Des Moines’ Cowles Commons. Wednesday, May 4, 2022. — Britt Fowler/Little Village

By Jeanne Liston, North Liberty

I dodged a bullet, twice. In the late sixties I was eighteen weeks pregnant when I began leaking amniotic fluid. My doctor hospitalized me immediately and started an IV of Pitocin to induce labor. He knew, as did I, that if I continued the pregnancy without the barrier of amniotic fluid around the fetus, the fetus could not survive and neither would I. Without intervention, I was bound to develop sepsis from the infection that would inevitability occur. Sepsis would first kill my baby and then me.

The second bullet I dodged occurred at nineteen weeks of pregnancy. This time I began with bleeding. By the time I got to the hospital I was hemorrhaging from a placenta previa. This occurs when the placenta attaches to the uterine wall over the opening of the cervix. When the cervix dilates, bleeding begins. I was rushed into the delivery room where a D & C was performed with me lightly sedated. I remember the doctor yelling at me to “Keep your hips on the table.” I also remember the excruciating pain I was feeling as he extracted the fetus and placenta. Later, when I woke up in my room, I had a unit of blood running into each arm.

In both instances, there was a fetal heartbeat until delivery. In both instances, I desperately wanted those babies. They were my fourth and fifth miscarriages and I was absolutely devastated. Today, with Iowa Governor Reynolds push for a heartbeat bill, I probably would die along with my babies. What physician should be expected to risk their career to initiate labor in a non-viable fetus, simply because there is a heartbeat? Neither of my pregnancies could be salvaged, but there was a heartbeat. In the first one, without the labor inducing drug I could have lain there for days until an overwhelming infection killed both of us. It does happen. There was a recent case in Poland and before that one in Ireland. Two young women that died because their doctors were afraid to intervene because of heartbeat laws. Ireland has since legalized abortion. How many cases do not make world news? We may soon find out right here in Iowa.

In my second incidence, would the physician risk his career and livelihood to save me? I will be 80 years old this year. I never expected to see the day when politicians and unelected officials are sitting in the exam room with me and my doctor, but here we are. They are the ones making the healthcare decisions for women.