Last week, the Springfield News-Leader reported the story of a 41-year-old Missouri woman who needed emergency, life-saving abortion care after her water broke 17 weeks into her pregnancy. Because of Missouri’s near-total abortion ban, Mylissa Farmer had to travel across state lines. When she reached out to the office of her Republican state senator for help, he referred her to an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center and promised to talk to state Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) on her behalf.
Now, Farmer is appearing in an ad for Schmitt’s Democratic opponent in the race for Missouri’s open Senate seat, Trudy Busch Valentine—even though Farmer had previously considered herself “pretty pro-life,” she told the News-Leader. In the ad, Farmer takes Schmitt to task for his extreme anti-abortion position. (In June, Schmitt boasted about making Missouri the first state to formally ban the procedure.)
“When my water broke at 17-and-a-half weeks, I found out I was going to lose my daughter, and my Missouri doctors weren’t allowed to give me the care that I needed—all because of the mandate Eric Schmitt put into place,” Farmer says in the ad. “Eric Schmitt doesn’t care about women like me. Imposing a mandate that doesn’t have exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the mother, and it could even send women and doctors to jail. He’s just too extreme.”
That Farmer is now advocating for a Democratic, pro-choice Senate candidate speaks volumes about the political landscape following the fall of Roe v. Wade. Since June, polling shows that the ruling has galvanized voters, even in red states like Kansas, where voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have banned abortion in July. Anti-abortion Republican politicians have been going to shocking lengths to hide or obfuscate their extreme stances ahead of the midterm elections.
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In a statement to Jezebel, Busch Valentine, who formerly worked as a nurse at the Salvation Army Residence for Children, said women and pregnant people like Farmer “are less safe today because of [Schmitt]” and called abortion bans—particularly those without “exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother”—“cruel, un-American, and dangerous.”
“When seconds count, we cannot tie the hands of doctors and hospitals, forcing them to get on the phone with lawyers while lives hang in the balance,” Busch Valentine continued.
Missouri’s abortion ban includes an exception for medical emergencies threatening the pregnant person’s life. But, as in Farmer’s case, nebulous definitions about what, exactly, constitutes a threat can render these exceptions virtually useless in many cases. And when prison is on the line for their doctors, pregnant patients will either be denied care altogether or care will be critically delayed while doctors are forced to seek legal input.
Farmer’s medical records indicated that several health factors placed her at greater risk of pregnancy-related complications, including increased risk of sepsis, loss of her uterus, and even death. After her water broke, her fetus and pregnancy were entirely nonviable, but because she wasn’t immediately dying, she was denied emergency abortion care in Missouri. This has been a recurring issue among abortion bans across the country: There are several documented cases of pregnant cancer patients being denied abortions under their state bans because their pregnancies weren’t deemed enough of an immediate risk to their lives to qualify for an exception, leaving them unable to receive cancer treatment until they traveled out-of-state for abortion.
When Farmer called her state senator’s office to seek help, an aide told her the state ban that was jeopardizing her life was actually “designed to protect the woman’s life,” she told the Springfield News-Leader. Farmer replied, “It’s not protecting me. ...There’s no chance for a baby; she’s not going to make it. It’s putting my life in danger.”
Despite the aide’s promise, Farmer never heard back from her state senator or Schmitt.