Oklahoma’s Abortion Ban Forced Woman to Spend Thousands to Travel to New Mexico for Life-Saving Care

“What happened to my daughter was a tragedy," Magon Hoffman told Tulsa Public Radio. "But what happened to me was the fault of the state of Oklahoma."

Oklahoma’s Abortion Ban Forced Woman to Spend Thousands to Travel to New Mexico for Life-Saving Care
Photo:Yoss Sabalet (Getty Images)

This week, an Oklahoma woman shared with Tulsa Public Radio that she was denied emergency abortion care for a life-threatening pregnancy condition in December. Magon Hoffman told the outlet that amid this medical emergency, she lost her job and was forced to pay $6,000 out-of-pocket to travel 600 miles to New Mexico to end her pregnancy upon learning her fetus had no skull. She was forced to make the trek after doctors in Oklahoma told her they couldn’t perform the procedure due to the state’s abortion ban.

Fourteen weeks into her pregnancy, scans for Hoffman’s fetus appeared healthy, but her doctor told her she was suffering from “one of the largest blood clots” they’d ever seen and she was at risk of organ failure, she explained to Tulsa Public Radio. Hoffman was put on bed rest and ceased all physical activities, and her fetus remained healthy through weekly ultrasounds and her pregnancy continued—until she reached 20 weeks, and learned her fetus was missing a skull and most of its brain; its chances of survival stood at 0%, doctors told her. Continuing to carry the nonviable fetus would inevitably endanger Hoffman, putting her at risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure as well as a “life-threatening delivery,” doctors said. “Carrying her to term sounded like the most torturous thing I could do to myself, my husband and our unborn child,” Hoffman, who’s also the mother of a four-year-old daughter, said of her decision.

But her situation was complicated by Oklahoma’s stringent abortion laws, which render the provision of abortion care a criminal offense except, supposedly, to save the life of the pregnant person. Despite Hoffman’s condition and a doctor telling her that her life was in jeopardy, she was still denied an emergency abortion. A nurse offered her a list of clinics outside Oklahoma to contact, and Hoffman says this nurse told her, “I didn’t become a nurse to have conversations like this.” (Worth noting: President Biden’s Health and Human Services Department actually determined in May that if hospitals, even in states that ban abortion, deny someone the procedure when their life is at risk, they’re in violation of federal law.)

Of Oklahoma’s six neighboring states, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri ban abortion. Abortion remains legal in Colorado, while Kansas bans abortion at 22 weeks. When Hoffman, 21 weeks pregnant, called a Kansas clinic to book an appointment, she learned the clinic was booked for weeks. Hoffman was eventually able to get an abortion in New Mexico… two weeks after learning her fetus had no chance of survival. The hospital told her they needed her medical records from Oklahoma, but her doctor there was prohibited from sharing them, leaving Hoffman—who is not a doctor—to try to explain her condition to the New Mexico hospitals. By this point, Hoffman was out of work (though she didn’t specify when she lost her job), and and forced to pay $6,000 in medical and travel-related bills for a life-saving procedure she couldn’t get in her home state.

“What happened to my daughter was a tragedy. But what happened to me was the fault of the state of Oklahoma,” Hoffman said. Throughout the process of seeking care, she also recounted struggling with anxiety about how she’d be perceived by others in her conservative state: “I thought everyone was going to think I was a murderer, even the doctors and nurses, because the way politicians talk about abortion is so hateful, like we’re only using it as birth control.”

Hoffman’s story illustrates what experts have long warned: Exceptions to save the pregnant person’s life are mostly theoretical, and can dangerously delay time-sensitive care as doctors consult lawyers. Last week, women in three states—including Oklahoma—joined a lawsuit challenging their states’ bans after they say they nearly died from being denied abortions. (One of the women, a Tennessee resident, was denied care even as her fetus’ organs were growing outside of itself.) “This was one of the hardest moments of my life,” Hoffman said. “And Oklahoma really kicked me when I was down.”

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