Abortion Bans Are Already Harming People Who Aren't Even Pregnant
When Roe v. Wade was overturned and abortion bans went into effect, the Republicans who passed and supported them thought they knew what was going to happen. Selfish, irresponsible sluts would finally be held accountable for their actions, reap the consequences of their behavior, and ultimately, through the magic of pregnancy and childbirth and being forced to care for someone other than themselves, be reformed into good, wholesome Christians no longer leading lives of sin. Finally, they would be able to sleep at night without being tormented by the thought of other people, you know, not sleeping.
Unfortunately, those who have ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, psoriasis, Crohn's, psoriatic arthritis, colitis and many other health problems may not get to sleep so easily after all — because one of the primary drugs used to treat some of those things happens to be methotrexate. Methotrexate, you may know, is an abortifacient. It's part of the usual cocktail given to those having medical abortions but can also be used on its own to end a pregnancy.
Thus, many doctors in states with abortion bans are now afraid that prescribing the drug for these other reasons to those who can get pregnant could lead to the doctors being arrested. And even when doctors do prescribe it, pharmacists at drug stores like CVS and Walgreens are being told that if they live in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, Texas, or Oklahoma, they cannot fill methotrexate or misoprostol prescriptions for women and others assigned female at birth under the age of 60 without official proof that it is not for an abortion.
At least one of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains has told their pharmacists in states with abortion bans to ask for diagnosis codes before dispensing drugs like methotrexate and misoprostol, which is used to complete miscarriages as well as for abortions. “We’re committed to supporting women’s health care,” said Mike DeAngelis, CVS’s executive director for corporate communications. But he added, “These laws, some of which include criminal penalties, have forced us to require pharmacists in these states to validate that the intended indication is not to terminate a pregnancy.”
A spokesman for Walgreens said that national pharmacy chain is also taking trigger laws into consideration when filling prescriptions for drugs that may be used to terminate a pregnancy. “In these states, our pharmacists work closely with prescribers as needed, to fill lawful, clinically appropriate prescriptions,” Fraser Engerman, a company spokesman, said in an email.
Methotrexate is considered the gold standard for arthritis treatment and it is currently used by nearly 60 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients, who have come to rely on it as an anti-inflammatory drug. It's also not something it is safe to go off of cold turkey — doing so could result in a severe flare-up of whatever ailment one is using it for.
Arthritis affects 33.5 percent of the population in Alabama, 36 percent of the population in Arkansas, 19 percent of the population in Texas, 25 percent in Idaho, etc. etc. Rheumatoid arthritis affects women two to three times more than it affects men. Methotrexate costs about $43 a month while a good insurance plan can lower the cost of the most popular brand name treatment for RA, Humira, to a mere $5,000 a month.
This is not going to end well.
Already we've been hearing reports of patients being refused their prescriptions, being told by their doctors that they have to go on birth control in order to continue taking methotrexate and be subjected to monthly pregnancy tests, or that they have to switch to a different, less effective prescription. It's worth noting that there are also states whose proposed anti-abortion laws could result in IUDs and certain kinds of contraception being banned as well.
So just to be clear, people's health and welfare are going to be put at risk because some dopes want to force their religion/breeding fetish on people they don't even know — and some of those people, by the law of averages, will be those very dopes themselves.
In addition to drugs used in medical abortions, there are also drugs that are known to cause fetal abnormalities and severe birth defects. There are drugs that could, hypothetically, cause fetal death. Drugs people take for chronic conditions and that they need to survive — and now doctors have to worry that if they prescribe these drugs in these states and if something happens to a fetus they could go to prison.
"The question is," Tufts Medical Center rheumatologist Dr. Steven C. Vlad told Health Central, "What happens if a state legislature (or an individual pharmacist) decides that using any medication with unclear risk to the fetus is too dangerous and women can’t be allowed to take them, either when pregnant or if they are at risk of becoming pregnant? That might be an extreme example, but it’s not completely off the wall. Are we therefore going to see a wave of women who can’t use appropriate medications to treat their disease just because they could get pregnant while taking them?"
Another thing to consider is that there are already fairly severe doctor shortages in these areas.
I've said this before with regard to gynecologists, but there are many kinds of doctors, perhaps rheumatologists in particular, who are not going to want to practice in these areas when there is risk they could go to prison just for treating their patients. There are doctor shortages almost everywhere in the country, but it is the worst in rural areas — in large part because people who invest in going to medical school just do not want to live in those parts of the country when they could be living in more liberal, urban areas where there is a lot to do and where they are also needed.
There are doctor shortages everywhere in the country right now, but it's most dire in rural areas. As of 2018, there were 85 million people in this country, a quarter of the entire population, living more than an hour away from the closest hospital. In the event of an emergency, their only option is an air ambulance — the average cost of which is $30,000, out of pocket, because they're usually not covered by insurance. That is horrifying and it is going to get much worse if a significant number of doctors refuse to work in these areas.
This isn't just a hypothetical. Companies that recruit for jobs in the healthcare field are already being told by prospects that they will not work in anti-abortion states.
If I were as cold-hearted as those who wish to outlaw abortion, I could feel very smug and satisfied talking about this, delighting in the idea of these selfish bastards "facing consequences" for opposing abortion, but I guess I'm just not that much of an asshole.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse