Because of Wisconsin’s abortion ban, one mother gave up trying for another childBecause of Wisconsin’s abortion ban, one mother gave up trying for another childGiphy GIFGiphy GIF

Because of Wisconsin’s abortion ban, one mother gave up trying for another child

The moment Kristen Petranek knew she would stop trying to get pregnant came in May, while lying on her couch in Madison, Wisconsin. Her pregnancies had been hard on her body, she says, and risky, because she is diabetic.
“I have three brothers and he has one brother – we kind of liked [a number] in the middle of that,” she says. After 10 long ...
...months of trying, Petranek got pregnant in March 2022. Devastated, she went home to wait for the miscarriage to resolve.
It was the second time she’d miscarried and she was anxious about possible complications.
Petranek says she had been paying attention to how this was playing out in Texas, which had banned abortion after about six-weeks, back in 2021. That ban was already having repercussions on pregnancy care.
“That was the moment I knew I couldn’t try again,” she says.
“It wasn’t even a conscious decision, it was just like – I will not put myself through that again if I don’t have the confidence ...
...that I will be able to come out the other side.” During her first miscarriage years ago, Petranek ended up in the E.R.
Doctors gave her a dilation and curettage, or D&C, procedure to stop the bleeding – the same procedure that’s used ...
...for many abortions. It’s very surprising and sad to suddenly not be able to plan the family we all wanted.
“That’s why I’m healthy. That’s why I’m here.”
She says the fact that her pregnancies have been physically and emotionally draining weighs into her calculus as well: “It’s kind of like – I will fall apart.”
“It’s very surprising and sad to suddenly not be able to plan the family we all wanted,” she says.
There are delays in care because physicians are hesitating, thinking twice, calling legal counsel. Three Wisconsin doctors have joined the lawsuit challenging the law.
In affidavits shared with NPR, they say the law and their fear of prosecution has already impacted their medical decision making and their “ability to provide necessary and appropriate care in Wisconsin.”
Those decisions are often made with other people, “partners within the context of families, romantic relationships, extended family or chosen family, friends, faith leaders,” she says.
How that calculus plays out may come down to personal risk tolerance.
“A single mom [with] four kids at home – their tolerance for incurring even the smallest amount of risk that could be associated with even just a healthy pregnancy is ...
...going to be potentially lower than someone who really desperately wants to become pregnant and is really willing to do whatever it takes in order to have a child.”
“There are people who are really desperate to get pregnant, there are people who are really desperate to not be pregnant, ...
...and most people are somewhere in between,” she explains, and it’s a challenge to capture that nuance in data.
“I think on balance, there’ll be more people who want abortions who can’t get them than people who want babies and choose not to have them because of these policies,” she says.
“But there’ll still be a group of people – like [Petranek] – who are opting out of having another baby, and that has a major impact on their own hopes and dreams about family-making.”
“When we’re talking about an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage – these are in no way, shape or form an abortion,” she says.
In Missouri, hospital doctors treating a woman whose water broke at 18 weeks wrote in her chart that “current Missouri law supersedes our medical judgment” ...
...and so she could not receive an abortion procedure even though she was at risk of infection, according to a report in the Springfield News-Leader.
That hospital is now under investigation for violating a federal law that requires doctors to treat and stabilize patients during a medical emergency. In Wisconsin, Cutler says she’s seeing similar problems unfold.
“There are delays in care because physicians are hesitating, thinking twice, calling legal counsel, conferring to make sure – where the direction from a medical perspective seems very clear, but is it legal?”
“We have a large majority in both state houses that are pro-life, that are in favor of the current law,” says Skogman of Wisconsin Right to Life.
“We realize that our law may need to have further discussions on strengthening the medical emergency language so that it’s very clear to women and medical providers that those cases are not in violation of the law.”
“[It] was written solely by men, at a time when neither antibiotics nor ultrasound existed, basic infection control was not practiced, C-sections ...
...– and all surgeries for that matter – were performed without anesthesia, and problems of pregnancy and labor were poorly understood,” she says.
“Not to mention that in the 1850s women were literally second class citizens with few to no rights.”
For doctors and patients in Wisconsin trying to live with an abortion ban in legal limbo, “the level of confusion and uncertainty and – [even] chaos – that ...
...this has injected into the provision of all sorts of pregnancy-related health care, not just induced abortion, cannot be overstated,” Cutler says.
“It was good that I had the distraction of the holiday but I kept thinking, ‘I would have been holding a newborn right now,'” she says.
“We wanted a baby – we wanted to have a third child,” she says, through tears.
“I have to reconcile with the fact that she’s truly, always going to be my youngest child now, when I always pictured her as a big sister someday.”
“There’s a huge cultural problem with people who would call themselves pro-life, not wanting to accept that these are the consequences,” she says.
“Women that they know, women who want to be mothers, women who go to church every week – are going to be the ones that are also suffering.”