Why a woman’s doctor warned her not to get pregnant in Texas

The friend introduced him to Kailee Lingo, his sorority sister at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. Kailee recalls that when she and Cade first met, it was “a connection at first sight.”

A month after graduating from college, Kailee and Cade got married in Marble Falls, Texas. They are both proud to be native Texans: Kailee’s family has lived there for generations, and Cade’s ancestors are part of the “Old Three Hundred” of Texas, the first families who joined Stephen F. Austin to settle in the area in the 1800s.

At the time, the DeSpains were both passionately anti-abortion.

“I was just your quintessential pro-life Texan,” Kailee, 29, told CNN in a recent interview.

“I was raised in central Texas by extremely Republican parents and grandparents,” Cade, 31, said. “One hundred percent pro-life.”

Kailee and Cade have been supporting abortion rights since 2016, when she miscarried at 16 weeks and was hospitalized with serious complications including blood clots and infection. It was one of three miscarriages she had in the early years of marriage.

“It made me realize that pregnancy can be dangerous,” she said. “It made me think of my little sisters, and I wanted them to have a choice if they ever had to go through something like this.”

Last September, when a restrictive anti-abortion law took effect in Texas, Kailee pleaded on Facebook for people to reach out to their elected officials to protect abortion rights.

In November, Kailee and Cade were thrilled to learn she was pregnant. Hopeful, they posted ultrasound images and a gender-revealing video of a cannon firing blue confetti. They named their baby boy Finley.

Then, about three months later, they learned that Finley had heart, lung, brain, kidney and genetic defects and would be stillborn or die within minutes of birth. Carrying it to term puts Kailee at high risk for serious pregnancy complications, including blood clots, preeclampsia and cancer.

Even so, they were unable to have an abortion in Texas and fled to New Mexico.

“I’ve never felt more betrayed by a place I was once so proud to be from,” Kailee said in tears.

“How could you be so cruel to pass a law that you know will hurt women and you know will give birth to babies in pain?” she added. “How human is that? How does that save anyone?

CNN emailed Texas lawmakers who wrote or sponsored the state’s anti-abortion laws. None of them responded to questions from CNN.

A grim prognosis for their baby

When Kailee and Cade found out she was pregnant, they desperately hoped for a “sticky baby” – a pregnancy that would last – after her three miscarriages.

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But after several ultrasounds, the doctors’ prognosis was grim: His heart, lung, kidney and brain problems were severe, and his genetic condition, called triploidy, meant he had an extra set of chromosomes. Doctors said Finley would either die before birth or if he came to full term, he would die within minutes or at most an hour after birth.

One of their doctors told them, “Some of these things could be fixed, but all of these things together — it can’t be fixed,” Kailee recalled.

She says the doctor told them that before Texas’ six-week abortion ban went into effect in September of last year, she would have advised abortion as “the safest course for you”. [and] the most human course of action for him.”

But the doctor said she couldn’t offer them an abortion in Texas. She said the only option to get one was to travel out of state.

Risk to Kailee’s life

Staying pregnant with Finley could have put Kailee’s life in danger.

She suffers from two blood clotting disorders, which put her at a higher risk of getting dangerous blood clots during pregnancy. Additionally, mothers of babies with triploidy are more likely to get preeclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy disorder. In addition, there was an increased risk of cancer-associated placental abnormality.

Kailee said she considered risking her own life to carry Finley to term.

“I [wanted] say goodbye, she said. I [wanted] a chance to hold him back.”

But then she thought of how Finley would suffer as he struggled to breathe.

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“He’s going to suffocate, he’s going to die and I’m going to watch him do it,” she said.

For Cade, there was only one option: it made no sense for him to risk his wife’s life to have a baby that was certain to die quickly.

Cade told Kailee, “‘I’ll support you no matter what decision you make, but I really don’t want to lose you both,'” Kailee recalled.

The couple opted for the abortion, driving 10 hours to a clinic in New Mexico. The procedure and the trip cost $3,500. They hoped their insurance would cover the procedure, but Texas law strictly limits abortion coverage, and the clinic told them their insurance company refused to pay.

The DeSpains didn’t have enough money – Kailee said she lost her pay at work because she had too many sick days – so Cade asked a relative he describes as ” the embodiment of Trump’s fanboy” to give them the $3,500. The relative relented when Cade said that without the abortion he could find himself a widower at 30.

Cade said he didn’t like asking for money, but “my job as a husband is to protect and love my wife. If I don’t fight to keep her here, then I’ve failed. .”

Kailee had an abortion in March when she was 19 weeks pregnant.

“I am still so angry and hurt”

While lawmakers didn’t respond to CNN’s questions about Kailee’s case, the president of Texas Right to Life did.

John Seago said that “Texas law is very clear about the circumstances in which an abortion can be performed” and that “what happened to [Kailee] and the response of his doctors was absolutely a misrepresentation of the law. And it should never have happened.”

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But Katie Keith, director of the Health Policy and the Law Initiative at Georgetown University Law Center, said Texas abortion laws — one that went into effect last year and another that went into effect on last month – are not at all clear and are “designed to be deliberately vague and broad”.
The most recent law, for example, states that an abortion can be performed if the mother “has an aggravated life-threatening physical condition caused by or resulting from pregnancy that exposes the woman to risk of death or poses a risk serious impairment of a major bodily function.

“They don’t specify exactly the situations in which an abortion can be performed,” Keith said.

Kailee said her doctors told her they could only abort her if she was in imminent danger of dying — basically, if she was “dying on the table.” ”

If a doctor is found in violation of the law, the penalties can be severe: heavy fines, loss of their medical license and possible life in prison.

Additionally, citizens can sue doctors they believe performed an illegal abortion, and if they win, they can get a $10,000 reward. If the citizen is wrong and the doctor wins the lawsuit, the doctor must still pay his own legal fees, as Texas law specifically prohibits doctors from recovering costs from plaintiffs.

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“Facing the potential of becoming a felon and facing life in prison for simply trying to care for patients was horrific, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider leaving the state,” said Dr. Leah Tatum. , a spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who practices in Austin, Texas, and has treated patients in situations similar to Kailee’s since the passage of Texas anti-abortion laws.

Texas law that went into effect last year banned most abortions at the onset of fetal heart activity, which can occur as early as week six of pregnancy and before many people know they are pregnant. It was one of the oldest and most restrictive abortion laws. Laws banning abortion or severely restricting the procedure took effect in a dozen states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion on June 24.

Kailee says the last time she saw her obstetrician she advised her not to get pregnant in Texas.

“She said ‘it’s not safe,'” Kailee recalled. “She said, ‘I need you to look at me. I need you to understand that if you get pregnant in Texas and have complications, I can’t intervene until I can prove that you are going to die.’ ”

The DeSpains say they are considering leaving Texas, but leaving their jobs and family would be difficult.

Kailee said they are sharing their story in hopes of raising awareness so that “stories like mine can change voters’ perspectives enough.”

“I’m still so angry and hurt I can barely see straight,” she wrote on Facebook the day after the abortion. “Finley and I were simply collateral damage in a much bigger picture. It’s hard for me to understand the thought process of lawmakers who would rather have a full-term baby suffocate to death than allow a mother to take a decision that spares the child that pain.”

CNN’s Nadia Kounang and John Bonifield contributed to this report.

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