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Florida’s new abortion ban isn’t a horror story. It’s a death sentence

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“So what are some of the horror stories you’ve seen?”

After more than 20 years as an abortion care physician, this is a question I’m used to being asked.

And I will be hearing that question more than ever now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a move that puts reproductive rights in this state under one of the greatest attacks we have ever experienced.

Suffering is not a ‘story’

When people ask me about some of the “horror stories” I’ve seen, they are usually well-meaning.

It’s a clunky question that comes from someone who truly understands that abortion is health care and wants to preserve access to such care for everyone who needs it. It’s a question raised by someone who knows that things can get bad but wants to understand just how bad ‘bad’ is. It’s an innocent question that is born from curiosity and expressed nervously. Yet it’s still a question that I can’t help but take issue with.

“Horror stories” – that’s what abortion patients have been reduced to.

These situations are terrible, but they aren’t stories. They are the real lives of real people who are being hurt unnecessarily. Stories are what you watch on television or tell around a campfire. Stories are things that happen in a way that’s disconnected from you and from your reality.

But what patients in Florida have been suffering through has been far worse than a story, and such suffering will only increase now that a six-week ban is set to become law in this state. What has taken place isn’t a “story” – it’s an unconscionable injustice. It’s an assault on the rights of every individual in Florida to determine the course of their own lives and make their own private health care decisions without fear of government intrusion.

Real people will be affected

A little over a year ago, I cared for a middle schooler who became pregnant after being raped by someone close to him. She was 16 weeks along by the time she realized she was pregnant. With the six-week ban in place, her physician would face criminal charges for providing her abortion care.

But caring for this patient should never be a criminal offence. The real crime is being committed against my patients by our government by preventing them from getting the health care they need.

A flag that reads “My body, my choice,” flutters in the wind across the street from the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Thursday, April 13 - the same day Gov.  Ron DeSantis signed a bill to ban abortions in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy.

A flag that reads “My body, my choice,” flutters in the wind across the street from the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Thursday, April 13 – the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill to ban abortions in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy.

I was originally drawn to abortion care for the same reason I was drawn to medicine in general: I believe that every individual deserves compassion and the right to make well-informed decisions about their health care without judgment or retribution.

Part of what makes bills like the six-week ban so cruel is the lack of compassion injected into the language, and the utter contempt that lawmakers demonstrate towards pregnant individuals. These bills aren’t intended to save lives or help people. If that was the actual goal, why aren’t we adequately funding child care services, investing in making our public schools safer or increasing access to affordable health care?

Instead, we’re funneling money to fake clinics and staff with limited or no training who give misinformation to patients and criminalize people who have miscarriages. Instead, we’re focusing on controlling people and scaring them into complying with an extremist agenda.

Elected officials have tried to dismiss the true impact of the six-week ban by touting the “exemptions” within it for sexual assault victims. The reality is that these exemptions place an outrageous burden on victims of sexual assault to prove they were assaulted. Often there is no proof to procure – and even if there is, meeting the requirements demanded by the state adds even more difficulty to this awful time.

The “fatal fetal anomalies” or life-threatening pregnancy complications exemptions are also intentionally vague. The goal is not to provide alternatives for patients who fit certain circumstances. The goal is to tie the hands of doctors and put them in a position where they can’t tell if they’re violating the law by providing life-saving treatment – ​​which, in effect, will block patients from receiving any care at all.

The effects of this six-week abortion ban won’t be shared as horror stories.

They will be shared as real-life experiences that affect actual human beings. They will be shared as testimonies given during future hearings held by lawmakers to figure out why negative real-life outcomes, like maternal mortality and poverty rates, have skyrocketed in Florida. They will be shared as obituaries and eulogies.

This abortion ban is not a horror story. It is a death sentence.

Dr. Sujatha Prabhakaran is a board-certified OB-GYN who has been caring for patients for more than 20 years. She is based in Sarasota and also serves as an abortion care physician with Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

This article originally appeared on the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Florida’s new abortion ban will lead to more suffering