Florida’s abortion restrictions had devastating consequences for this mother

Florida abortion restrictions

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

By Giselle Balido

June 7, 2024

A Florida mother had to carry her pregnancy to term at great risk to her physical and emotional health, even though doctors told her the baby would live only a few hours.

In 2022, when she was around 24 weeks into her pregnancy, Deborah Dorbert, a Florida wife and mom, learned during a routine ultrasound that the baby that she and her husband were so eagerly awaiting had a rare medical disorder.

Called Potter syndrome, the fetal disorder is caused by decreased amniotic fluid surrounding the baby in the uterus, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The news was devastating to the family, including the couple’s four-year-old, a boy who was looking forward to having a little brother. But as painful as the news was, it was nothing compared to what came next, as Dorbert shared with ABC’s Good Morning America.

After being told by doctors that the baby would not survive and that the pregnancy was high-risk for her, the couple agreed to induce the pregnancy early instead of carrying it to term.

But a 15-week abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis that same year banned nearly all abortions after 15 weeks in Florida. The 15-week ban, however, allowed for exceptions if the fetus had a fatal abnormality or in cases when the mother is at risk. Still, citing state law, the hospital affiliated with Dorbert’s maternal-fetal medicine specialist would not induce birth early.

With no financial resources to travel out of state for the procedure, at 27 weeks into her pregnancy, Dorbert had no choice but to carry it to term.

 

RELATED: Watch This Video to Understand the Devastation Abortion Bans Cause

 

In March of 2023, after months of suffering with intense emotional and physical pain and discomfort, Dorbert delivered a baby that, as doctors had predicted, only lived a few hours.

“Delivering him just to watch him die was just all extra added trauma,” Dorbert said on Good Morning America.

@floricuas

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday issued a ruling upholding Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 15-week abortion ban that will allow a six-week ban to take effect in 30 days. In response, House Democrats held a “field hearing” in Broward County to meet with Florida women who have been impacted by the state’s restrictive abortion laws. In the meeting, which was co-sponsored by Florida Democratic state Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a young mother recounted the ordeal she and her family lived through when she was denied an abortion after doctors found out her baby had not developed kidneys and was not viable. 🖊️: @gcbalido 📸: N/A

♬ original sound – Floricua

This sent her into a spiral of sadness and depression made tougher by having to parent a then 4-year-old, and explain his brother’s death to him, while navigating the intense grief that culminated in suicidal thoughts.

Dorbert was not alone in her grief. Research shows that a lack of access to abortion care may be linked to an increased risk of psychological stress, according to the American Psychological Association.

After going through therapy to help with the depression and suicidal thoughts, and motivated by a desire to help change Florida’s laws so that other women and families don’t have to endure a similar ordeal, Dorbert is now speaking out about the real physical, emotional, and psychological impact of extreme abortion bans.

 

RELATED: Video: A Six Week Abortion Ban Is a Total Ban

 

This May, a new abortion ban went into effect in Florida that bans virtually all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The ban allows for exceptions if the fetus has a fatal abnormality or in cases when the mother is at risk, but some physicians are concerned about how to interpret the laws, which carries severe penalties for doctors, such as fines and loss of medical license, among others.

“The Legislature uses wording that is very confusing,” Dr. Cecilia Grande, an Obstetrics & Gynecology specialist in Miami told Floricua.

“They say, ‘Well, if the patient’s life is at risk, you can go ahead and you can induce the delivery.’ But what is ‘at risk’?” she asked.

The situation, Dr. Grande says, puts doctors and patients in a situation that is “very, very difficult.”

Now, we’re told to send the patient home and wait for the patient to be sick. Do we wait for them to be very sick, or just slightly sick? But then, if the patient gets sick, we get sued. Plus, that is malpractice. So, it’s a very, very difficult situation and the best way I can put it is a human tragedy.”

Voters could restore abortion rights in Florida

In November, Florida voters will have the chance to vote on Amendment 4, a citizen ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. The amendment would protect abortion rights up to viability, which is generally understood to mean when a baby can survive outside the womb, which the medical community puts at about 24 weeks.

Reproductive rights advocates like Dr. Grande, Floridians Protecting Freedom, and state legislators like Anna Eskamani and Lauren Book, are working to make sure the amendment passes.

“I don’t tell my patients how to vote, but I ask all of them ‘Are you registered to vote?’,” says Grande. “Because if we don’t vote, we can’t be part of this conversation.”

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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