After 10 Years & 3 Rounds of IVF, a Gaza Woman’s Twins Were Killed in an Instant

“I screamed for my children and my husband. They were all dead,” Rania Abu Anza told the AP. As questions about IVF accessibility loom across the U.S., American women aren’t the only people suffering.

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After 10 Years & 3 Rounds of IVF, a Gaza Woman’s Twins Were Killed in an Instant

Rania Abu Anza woke up in the middle of the night on Saturday to breastfeed her son Naeim, who slept in one of her arms. Her daughter, Wissam, was in the other. Rania, her children, and husband—who’d named Wissam after himself,—were among 35 of her displaced family members sheltering in a single house in Rafah when an Israeli airstrike struck the building. The attack came about an hour and a half after Rania had breastfed her son, and killed both her children and her husband, the Associated Press reported. Rania told the AP that she’d spent 10 years trying to have children and her twins, who had been born on October 13, right at the beginning of Israel’s latest siege on Gaza, were conceived after three rounds of IVF.

Rania’s weren’t the only children killed by the late-night attack. A doctor told the AP six children and four women were among the 14 others killed; one of those women was pregnant. That the victims were disproportionately women and children is part of a pattern that’s emerged: Gaza’s health ministry reported last month that 70% of those killed by Israeli attacks since October have been women and children. The United Nations reports that two mothers in Gaza are killed every hour.

“I screamed for my children and my husband. They were all dead,” Rania said. “I didn’t get enough of them. I swear I didn’t get enough of them.”

“Who will call me mother now? … My heart is gone,” Rania told Al Arabiya News. “What was their fault?” she asks, holding her dead children’s bodies. “What did a baby like this do?”

Rania’s heartbreaking story of losing twins to Israeli violence after three rounds of IVF comes as concerns about IVF dominate the political news cycle in the U.S. In late February, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos can be considered “extrauterine children” eligible for wrongful death lawsuits, prompting fertility clinics across the state to pause IVF services to avoid costly lawsuits—which, in turn, has led to worries among Democratic politicians and reproductive rights advocates. But Rania’s experience brings into perspective that fertility struggles—and the politicization thereof—are not limited to American women living in a post-Roe society

At the end of January, Samah Shamali, a former lecturer at the Islamic University in Gaza, shared a Facebook post detailing horrific stories of pregnancy and birth in Gaza. She recounted how one woman who became pregnant after 10 years of trying to conceive, and “paying the high expenses of embryo transplants for just one of them to succeed.” The woman “eagerly awaited the first embrace with her baby at his first moment,” but instead went into a coma after enduring a c-section without anesthetic—an experience that far too many pregnant women in Gaza have faced under Israel’s blockade. Shamali described another woman who went into early labor and had to walk 10 hours to find somewhere safe to give birth; upon giving birth, the woman’s newborn, premature twins died from a lack of oxygen supply at the hospital.

The experiences Shamali described haven’t been confirmed or independently verified. But in February, Ammal Awadallah, executive director of the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association, told Jezebel she’s heard similar stories from patients and health care providers on the ground in Gaza, and that these experiences “are more common than not.” What’s happening in Gaza is nothing short of a reproductive health crisis that’s seen the miscarriage rate increase by 300%, as CARE International told Jezebel in January, along with rampant infections and disease, no safe locations to give birth or shelter after giving birth, and surging rates of maternal and infant deaths. 

In February, UNICEF spokesperson Tess Ingram told Jezebel about a woman who had to run on foot from an Israeli attack while eight months pregnant, later had a c-section, and then had to be hospitalized for a severe infection that left her too weak to hold her own baby. Ingram also described a mother of 13 who “barely ate for two weeks near the end of her pregnancy” and now lacks “clothes, diapers, or food” for her newborn; and another woman was buried under rubble by an Israeli attack while six months pregnant. 

Panicked news coverage of the looming IVF crisis in the U.S. is perfectly understandable: The movement toward fetal personhood, which has been growing and has already harmed pregnant people across the country for years now, is terrifying, and the media has an obligation to probe and question how far the anti-abortion movement wants to take us.

But here’s what I will say: It’s incredibly bleak to hear stories like Rania’s—or those of any of the other women who organizations like CARE and UNICEF have told me about—while mainstream sources in the U.S. hyper-fixate on the future of domestic access to the costly fertility treatment. This isn’t to say we can or should only pay attention to one of these; there’s room and a moral obligation to cover both—to draw connections between global and domestic reproductive violence and to condemn the U.S. government’s actions in worsening both post-Roe American life and Israel’s military campaign against Palestinians.

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