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Without Roe, some worry that pregnancy is too risky

Some women who want a baby fear that if they experience a miscarriage or pregnancy complication, they might be denied care and die.

After the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, some women who want to become moms are reconsidering their decision to get pregnant and start a family.

KC, who asked that her name be abbreviated to protect her privacy, says she's having second thoughts about her plans to get pregnant.

"What if I have an ectopic or septic pregnancy? Would I be left to die?"

KC, considering pregnancy

"I am afraid of the potential consequences of a pregnancy gone wrong," KC, 27, who lives in Chicago, Illinois, and works in health care, told TODAY Parents. "Although I live in a protected state, I thought we were a protected country. I worry things could change overnight."

While lawmakers who write abortion bans say they are not meant to risk pregnant people’s health, experts say they will. The treatment for some pregnancy complications that threaten the mom's life is exclusively abortion. With the Supreme Court's decision, pregnant people and their doctors are navigating a new maze of state laws. 

Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 25 clinicians and 20 people who have experienced pregnancy complications in Texas, and found that providers are delaying or denying necessary abortion care for their patients in distress, afraid they will be criminalized as a result of the state’s anti-abortion law.

Related: She’s miscarrying on vacation, in a country that banned abortion. Now her life is in danger

One Texas woman who participated in the research was denied care after her membranes ruptured before fetal viability. “I knew how dangerous it was for me to get on a plane and go get an abortion,” she told researchers. “But I knew that it was still the safer option for me than sitting in Texas and waiting, and I could potentially get sicker.”

KC says it's the "what ifs" that terrify her.

"What if I have an ectopic or septic pregnancy? Will no interventions be able to take place? Would I be left to die?" she asked. "What if there is something wrong with the baby in which the baby would feel pain or suffer, then die shortly after birth? What if I would naturally miscarry and I need medical assistance to pass the tissue? Would I get that assistance?

"Knowing all the complications that can occur is very scary," she added. "Not knowing if I would get medical help is even scarier."

Abortion care is included in a list of "essential" health care services published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020. The WHO considers “comprehensive abortion care” to include care for miscarriages, fetal death and “intrauterine fetal demise.”

Related: Being denied an abortion harms mental health more than getting one, research shows

KC says something has to change before she feels safe getting pregnant in the United States.

"There would have to be some sort of federal protections for medical interventions during pregnancy complications," she explained. "I would prefer Roe be reinstated to protect safe abortions for those who need it, though."

Brianna, 26, a coffee shop worker living in Iowa, says she recently started talking to her husband about starting a family.

"I was very excited and happy with this new idea of my husband and I having a child," Brianna, who asked that her last name be omitted to protect her privacy, told TODAY. "I finally feel like I’m in the right place to take care of another life."

But she's scared. "What scares me the most, for my own self, is if I were to run into complications during the pregnancy that’d result in me needing an abortion to prevent me from potentially dying, but I can’t receive one or have to go through a waiting period beforehand,” Brianna said. “It’s scary to me to think I should be worrying about things like this in 2022.”

Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds says she’ll ask the state’s district court to reinstate a 6-week abortion ban, the Des Moines Register reported. The ban would make exceptions in cases when the life of the pregnant person is in danger, but does not clearly state what would qualify as a "life-threatening" medical emergency.

Despite her fears, Brianna says that she will probably still try to conceive, and she just hopes that citizens will pressure politicians into passing federal protections for abortion access.

"I think it’s now up to the people," she said. 

"I don't want to die because I have a miscarriage and I'm not able to get the emergency medical care that I need."

Lauren Crabtree, 29, who wants to be a mom

Related: Is abortion a parenting issue? Yes — here’s why

Jessica, a 23-year-old retail store manager who also lives in Iowa, isn't as hopeful. She says that she while has always felt like she "was born to be a mother," Roe being overturned has left her doubting if now is the right time to start a family.

"My partner and I are talking about having a child, but it’s a much more difficult conversation to have after the overturning of Roe v. Wade," Jessica, who asked that her full name be withheld to protect her privacy, told TODAY Parents. "There are many scientific health reasons where one might require an abortion."

Related: What is ectopic pregnancy and how could abortion bans affect care?

Jessica says she never thought she would "ever consider having an abortion." But multiple births run in her family, she says, and she's afraid of what that could mean if she were to get pregnant.

"I am horrified that I will get pregnant with twins or triplets, and I won’t have the option of selective reduction if one of them is sick or killing the other," she explained. "Abortion is a necessary medical procedure to save the lives of women."

"Overturning Roe is one of the most terrifying and overwhelming things I’ve had to go through in my life," Jessica added.

Related: Could birth control be banned? How overturning Roe affects birth control

Dr. Jane van Dis, an assistant professor and OBGYN in Rochester, New York, says the fears of prospective parents are warranted.

"We are not attorneys. There was no course in medical school or residency training that prepared OBGYNs for what to do when your training conflicts with your hospital administration or your local prosecutor or your local attorney general," van Dis said. "I see lots of people on social media imploring OBGYNs to be the hero, but this is a fire that the Supreme Court and legislators started and we are armed with washcloths and spray bottles."

Related: What is an abortion fund? How people are accessing care despite legal restrictions

Lauren Crabtree, 29, says that aside from a few moments in her 20s, she has always wanted to become a parent. In the last two years, her and her partner have gotten more serious about trying to conceive.

"We were planning to wait until I finish my Ph.D. in December," she told TODAY.

"But the overturning of Roe v. Wade places both me and any prospective children at pretty significant risk," Crabtree explained. "Even if it's a really low-risk pregnancy, there are many medical concerns that come up that would cause risk to me or suffering for the baby.

"I don't want to die because I have a miscarriage and I'm not able to get the emergency medical care that I need," she added.

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Experts say the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade will make the maternal mortality rate worse.

Crabtree says she's going to wait and see what politicians in her home state of North Carolina do with abortion laws before she tries to get pregnant.

Currently in North Carolina, abortion is legal up to the point of fetal viability (around 23 or 24 weeks) and after a 72-hour waiting period, with exceptions for when there is a "substantial risk" to the pregnant person's life. Republican state lawmakers say they plan on introducing new abortion restrictions in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling.

"Our next election could have a very significant influence on what medical care is available," Crabtree said. "Unfortunately, me and my medical provider can no longer make a decision on what's best ... It's in the hands of politicians."

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