A Woman Was Denied Medication for Being of ‘Childbearing Age.’ She Just Sued the Hospital
Tara Rule says her doctor in upstate New York was “determined to protect a hypothetical fetus" instead of helping her treat debilitating pain.JusticePolitics
Last September, New York resident Tara Rule posted a raw, emotional video on Tiktok saying she had been denied a medication to treat a debilitating condition called cluster headaches, because her neurologist told her she was of “childbearing age” and the medication could cause birth defects to a hypothetical fetus.
Rule said that as she sat in her neurologist’s office at Glens Falls Hospital, she told him she never planned to have kids and would have an abortion if she became pregnant; referencing the overturning of Roe v. Wade, he responded that getting the care she was seeking is “trickier now with the way things are going.” He also said she should bring her partner “in on the conversation” on her medical care. Rule asked if the issue preventing her from getting the “highly effective” medication was solely that she could become pregnant and, “If I was, like, through menopause, would [the medication] be very effective for cluster headaches?” The doctor affirmed it would. He also asked about her sex life and whether she’s “with a steady person.” Rule shared audio recordings of the appointment on TikTok at the time.
Last week, Rule filed a lawsuit against Albany Medical Health Partners charging the largest hospital system in upstate New York with discrimination over the denial of her medication and a string of incidents afterward. The suit alleges that denying her medication because she’s of “childbearing age” and prioritizing an imagined fetus over her health violates federal law—specifically, the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provisions and the Age Discrimination Act. “Where are we drawing the line here?” Rule told Jezebel. “Are hospitals going to require someone to share a pregnancy test, proof they’re on birth control, get a hysterectomy, to get life-saving health care?” She said she hopes her lawsuit can create more medical protections for people of “childbearing age” post-Roe.
TW: mentions of un/ a1ive, r***. This is not okay. I suffer with my disability everyday. How are we prioritizing religion over healthcare? What will I do? I feel so alone. #ehlersdanlos #clusterheadaches #migranes #roevwade #womensrights #uterus #malpratice #unitedstates #chronicpain #chronicillness #disabled #disability #help #desparate #medical #medicine #medicaltrauma #ptsd
In a similar example of post-Roe concerns around the mere possibility of pregnancy impacting people’s access to medication, several people who could become pregnant have reported being denied sometimes life-saving medications that are deemed “abortifacients” by doctors and pharmacists. Even before Roe was overturned, in 2021, a pregnant woman in Alabama was arrested and prosecuted for trying to pick up pain medication from her pharmacist to manage a chronic back condition, as police alleged she was endangering her pregnancy. Rule told Jezebel she’s heard from “people who say they were denied everything from acne medication to chemotherapy for the same reason.”
Rule, whose cluster headaches are exacerbated by her Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, described to Jezebel how the pain can be so severe that she can lose consciousness, and pointed to a study associating cluster headaches with higher rates of suicidal ideation due to unmanageable pain. She’s long struggled to find helpful treatments and said the neurologist wouldn’t even give her the name of the medication he referenced because, Rule said, “he was so determined to protect a hypothetical fetus.” With Rule’s unique lawsuit to challenge how hypothetical pregnancy can affect access to care, she said she’s determined to show that her life as a person with a disability has “more value” than an imagined, unborn fetus.
Part 2: the recording #medicine #doctor #neurologist #medicaltrauma #malpractice #roevwade #clusterheadaches #disability #chronicpain #chronicillness #ehlersdanlossyndrome #ehlersdanlos #ptsd #trauma #clusterheadaches #migraine
In addition to Rule’s allegations of discrimination, her suit accuses Albany Medical Health Partners of privacy violations and fraud. According to Rule, after she shared audio recordings of her interactions with the neurologist on TikTok, an employee at the hospital contacted another hospital in the area, alleging that Rule livestreamed her appointments. This led to Rule’s removal from the second hospital, Malta Medical (also under Albany Medical Health Partners), in the middle of treatment for her cluster headaches. Rule denies livestreaming. In the lawsuit, Rule alleges her nurse practitioner at Malta discharged her against her will with the help of armed security, but her insurance company was told that she voluntarily left mid-treatment, which Rule argues amounts to falsification of records. Rule also alleges that the nurse practitioner who had her removed at Malta violated her privacy rights by sending Facebook messages to Rule’s partner that include her medical details.
A spokesperson for Albany Medical Health Partners told Jezebel that the hospital system “cannot comment on pending litigation.” Last year, they told USA Today about Rule’s allegations, “Our mission is to care for any patient who needs us. We encourage all patients to be actively engaged in their care. When any patient brings a concern forward, we investigate in a timely manner.”
Rule’s case shows how the notion of fetal personhood—an ideology that regards embryos as separate people with rights at odds with the pregnant person’s—can be taken even further, said Dana Sussman, deputy executive director at Pregnancy Justice (which isn’t working on Rule’s case). “What we’re seeing is how this ideology can extend beyond pregnancy itself—the idea that if you can even become pregnant, then you can no longer make decisions about your own body or access medical care,” Sussman told Jezebel.
In the months since Rule was denied care at Glens Falls Hospital, she maintains that she’s been “essentially blacklisted” by hospitals in the area, forcing her to travel out-of-state for medical care and incur significant out-of-pocket costs. She still hasn’t obtained the “highly effective” medication her neurologist referenced to her. Rule told Jezebel she never wanted to file a lawsuit—she just “wanted an apology,” or to be able to go to a hospital in her area without being turned away for sharing her story on TikTok.