Over the weekend, a local news outlet in Tucson, Arizona, reported that a 14-year-old girl had been denied her medication, methotrexate, for her debilitating arthritis and osteoporosis, because methotrexate can possibly induce a miscarriage and the girl is of childbearing age. This comes just after Arizona’s pre-Civil War, total abortion ban took effect at the end of last month.
Arizona’s ban threatens two to five years in prison for providing abortion, offering exceptions only for the life of the pregnant person—an exemption that sometimes forces people to prove they’re on the brink of dying just to get care.
On Tuesday, the 14-year-old girl, Emma Thompson, gave her first interview, telling KOLD News 13 she’s been taking methotrexate all her life due to her rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. “My entire life I was in and out of the hospital,” she said. “I was never able to stay in school until this past year, I was never able to ride a bike or get on the monkey bars like other kids could.” Thompson said the pharmacist who helped her at Walgreens “didn’t look at my history” and “just denied my prescription because of my age.”
“It’s not right,” Thompson continued. “They’re trying to make any girl who’s on this medication drop a pregnancy test when they get their medicine, and I feel like it’s really unfair.”
Another Arizona woman shared on Twitter on Saturday that her daughter, also based in Tucson, had a similar experience: “Daughter on methotrexate till they decided not to fill her prescription yesterday. RA and Crohn’s. She is in her ‘childbearing’ years,” she wrote. “We are freaking out.”
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Stories like this are part of what’s become a chilling pattern in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned. Last month, a New York woman with severe chronic pain was also denied medication for her condition for essentially the same reason: She was told she’s of childbearing age, and the medication could cause birth defects. “We need policy change to reprimand any physician or insurance company that chooses to prioritize a hypothetical life that does not exist over the wellbeing of a suffering human being who actually exists,” the woman, Tara Rule, told Jezebel.
These are the ripple effects of overturning Roe and banning abortion. Since June, several people have said they’ve been denied life-saving medications from pharmacists, because these medications could ostensibly double as miscarriage-inducing “abortifacients.” In July, roughly the same time one city’s public health system stopped providing Plan B to rape victims, health experts confirmed methotrexate—used to treat lupus, rheumatic diseases, certain cancers, and life-threatening ectopic pregnancies, in addition to arthritis—has become more difficult to access in states that have banned or are trying to ban abortion post-Roe.
But at 14, Thompson is one of the youngest people to come forward about having this experience. Her doctor, Dr. Deborah Jane Power, told KOLD that some of her older patients have been denied methotrexate prescriptions since the fall of Roe—but as of last week, Thompson is her youngest patient to be denied. “My 25 years as a physician, what I’ve learned, what I’ve trained, all the extra hours of study, is just being tossed away by lawmakers,” Dr. Power said. “For some patients, it’s incredibly serious—it’s the medication that’s keeping their disease under control.”
Even before the fall of Roe, our health system has long prioritized not just fetuses but hypothetical fetuses over women and pregnant people’s health and safety. Back in 2016, the CDC advised sexually active women who aren’t on birth control to not drink alcohol—whether or not they were pregnant or even planning to be pregnant—to mitigate the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. Without Roe and amid a wave of state-level abortion bans, the stakes are higher than ever, as doctors and pharmacists are forced to fear prison-time for just doing their jobs.
Thompson emphasized to KOLD that abortion bans like Arizona’s are putting literal children’s futures at risk. “I couldn’t do a lot of things that other kids could do when I was a kid, and I don’t want any other little girls to have to go through that because of the new abortion law,” she said.