News 9 - September 13, 2023 7:00 am

Oklahoma is one of three states facing a new lawsuit – due to the state’s strict abortion laws, which say doctors can only provide an abortion to save the life of the mother.  The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) complaint was filed after an Oklahoma woman was allegedly denied a life- saving abortion, and almost died in the hospital parking lot.

The suit aims to give doctors clarity on when they can provide abortions in the state.

The complaint was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of Jaci Statton.

“My husband and I were excited to learn that I was pregnant earlier this year,” Jaci Statton, mother of three, said.

But her pregnancy, and life, changed quickly earlier this year.

Early on in her pregnancy, Statton says she was suffering extreme abdominal pain, nausea and dizziness, and rushed to the emergency room when she believed she was having a miscarriage.

“I looked down and saw blood soaking through my jeans,” Statton said. “The next day, we were devastated when my doctor diagnosed me with a partial molar pregnancy. She said that I needed an abortion quickly, or I would die.”

According to the lawsuit “Jaci was bleeding and in such severe pain that she could barely walk when she arrived at the emergency room of the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.”

Statton’s doctor told her there was no way the baby would survive, and if the pregnancy continued, Statton could be at risk of high blood pressure, cancer or even death.

A partial molar pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic, is when unusual cells form in the placenta. There may be a fetus, the Mayo Clinic says, but the fetus can’t survive.

Statton was transferred to OU Children’s Hospital, where her fears were confirmed.

“All of the doctors agreed I needed a life-saving abortion and should receive care under Oklahoma’s ban,” Statton said.

All of the doctors except one, who said he could still detect the fetus’ heartbeat in the ultrasound.

“He told the doctors they could not touch me, due to the ban. They couldn’t touch me until I was crashing and that we should wait in the parking lot until I was about to die,” Statton said.

The lawsuit says: “… providers told Jaci that they could not provide an abortion until she was actively crashing in front of them or on the verge of a heart attack. In the meantime, the best that they could offer was to let Jaci sit in the parking lot so that she would be close to the hospital when her condition further deteriorated.”

The lawsuit goes on to say: “Jaci and her husband both begged staff at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital to perform an abortion, even asking to speak to a hospital ethics board and explain why Jaci should be permitted to access life-saving care.”

Jaci and her husband were allegedly denied a conversation with the ethics board.

Statton ended up traveling to Kansas, where she received the abortion. She later opted to get her tubes tied, saying she believes it’s too risky to become pregnant again in Oklahoma.

“We will never get over what happened to us,” Statton said. “We were turned away from so many hospitals where skilled and caring doctors could not act to save my life.”

The refusal of care in the state led the Center for Reproductive Rights to file the claim against OU Medical Center and OU Children’s.

“We filed a federal complaint with the department of health and human services on behalf of Jaci Statton,” Mark Hearron, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights said. “Doctors are scared that their own judgment, their own decision on how to care for a patient might be second guessed by a prosecutor, by a jury.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights is hoping to provide more clarity for healthcare workers under the state’s strict abortion laws.

“We hope this federal complaint will make sure hospitals know that, regardless of what state law says, federal law requires them to offer abortion care to patients like Jaci,” Hearron said.

In a statement OU Health said, “our physicians and staff remain steadfast and committed to providing the highest quality and compassionate care for women of all ages and stages of life.” They added that their healthcare complies with state and federal laws.

Pro Tem Greg Treat also sent a statement, saying:

“It’s sad, yet not surprising, that an organization that wants abortion on demand would sue to try and encourage the continuation of this barbaric practice.”


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