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Patients and doctors in 3 states announce lawsuits over delayed and denied abortions


The number of states with full abortion bans in effect continues to tick up. The count is now at 17 states. In three of those states - Tennessee, Idaho and Oklahoma - patients and doctors announced new legal actions today. As NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin reports, they tell dramatic stories describing how abortion laws interfered with their care.

SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: In Tennessee, Nicole Blackmon was denied an abortion even though her fetus had a lethal condition and she showed signs of dangerously high blood pressure.

NICOLE BLACKMON: Everything hurt. My vision got blurry, and I felt sharp pains when the baby moved. I was told I was at high risk of having a stroke.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She labored for 32 hours before giving birth to a stillborn child. She is now suing Tennessee. In Idaho, Jennifer Adkins found out her fetus had Turner syndrome, a condition that is fatal for the fetus. She was told how her own health was at serious risk, but she had to travel to Oregon for an abortion.

JENNIFER ADKINS: People need to understand how these events can affect the people they know and love. That's why I'm here today and suing Idaho over these bans.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: And in Oklahoma, a woman named Jaci Statton, whose pregnancy was nonviable and dangerous, was told to wait in the parking lot until she got closer to death and doctors could provide an abortion. Statton told NPR in April about how, sitting in the hospital, her husband, Dustin, feared she would die.

JACI STATTON: I look over, and he is just, like, head in his hands, this huge, like, six-foot guy. He's like, I'll lose everything. I'll lose my family.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Now Statton has filed a complaint against Oklahoma Children's Hospital for violating a federal law called EMTALA that requires hospitals to stabilize patients facing a life-threatening condition. Statton and the patients in Idaho and Tennessee are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights. That's the organization that has already garnered headlines for a lawsuit against the state of Texas for its abortion laws. Nancy Northup, the group's president, said patients in other states with abortion bans took notice.

NANCY NORTHUP: After we filed our case in Texas, our phones started ringing off the hook.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Each state that bans abortion includes some kind of medical exception, but it's become clear that those exceptions don't always prevent the situations these patients describe. In both new state lawsuits, physicians are plaintiffs, too. Doctor Emily Corrigan told reporters that Idaho state lawmakers are aware that these laws are causing problems, and they've said as much publicly.

EMILY CORRIGAN: That there are unintended consequences of the law that they passed, that they didn't understand what would happen with this law, or they never thought that Roe would be overturned. You know, I've heard them say all those things, but we have not had enough action.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She's willing to try any means necessary to improve the situation for patients and doctors, including going through the courts because, she says, the status quo is dire. Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Selena Simmons-Duffin reports on health policy for NPR.