Without Roe v. Wade, Women in My Shoes Could Be Jailed for Their Miscarriage

Discussions surrounding abortion must always include the loss of wanted pregnancies.

A group discussion with women impacted by miscarriages in Atlanta, Ga., on Aug. 3, 2022. The women were joined by Stacey Abrams (right). (Nathan Posner / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

In July, 2021—one year before the overturn of Roe—a miscarriage nearly claimed my life. Now, women in my same position are now being denied life-saving care and threatened with prosecution for losing their much-wanted pregnancies. Had I become pregnant in July 2022, I may not have survived to tell my story. 

When I first found out I was pregnant, we had a toddler at the time, and were overjoyed to grow our family. But three days later, when I felt a flood of fluid, my joy was replaced with heartbreak. Having already given birth once, I immediately recognized the feeling as a miscarriage. What I didn’t know was that I was nearly six weeks pregnant with twins, and one fetus would not survive.

In 2019, when Governor Brian Kemp (R-Ga.), signed a six-week abortion ban into law, the constitutional right to an abortion under Roe blocked the ban from taking effect. Since miscarriages often require the same medical treatment as in an abortion, Roe protected access to life-saving care.

In my first hospital visit at five weeks pregnant, I planned to confirm my suspicions that I was miscarrying. Yet despite feeling violently ill, my HCG levels showed I was still pregnant. The doctors didn’t know what to do, and could not detect much so early, so they sent me home to wait until I got sicker. 

This began the scariest month of my life. I was puking so often that I depleted all of my electrolytes, causing heart palpitations. I’d never experienced anything like it, I feared I would die, and my family feared the same.

I needed to see an ob-gyn, but the only ob-gyn in Macon that accepts Medicaid had a two-week wait. This is typical in Georgia, where a lack of Medicaid expansion contributes to increasing hospital closures and fewer options for many of us Georgians seeking care. This also fuels Georgia’s maternal mortality rate, one of the highest in the country, and a number that will only increase since abortion access has been essentially banned.

After four more weeks and two more hospital visits, I learned that I was pregnant with twins, and was simultaneously experiencing a pregnancy and a miscarriage—one pregnancy was viable and one was not. 

The treatment for my miscarriage was a Rhogam shot, usually safe to administer in the third trimester if you and your baby have different blood types. But since I was still in the first trimester, the shot would put my other pregnancy at risk. After suffering physically and emotionally for nearly six weeks, the decision to get the Rhogam shot was an easy one, because I had a child back home I wanted to live for. I had to survive for him. 

Within 24 hours of getting the shot, I started feeling better. Fortunately, it did not endanger the viable fetus. But I could not feel relief as the untreated miscarriage caused hemorrhaging in my uterus that put my pregnancy at high risk until I gave birth. 

I was pregnant with twins, and was simultaneously experiencing a pregnancy and a miscarriage—one pregnancy was viable and one was not. 

In this post-Roe world, I could have been denied this shot or investigated for losing my baby. While Georgia’s six-week abortion ban doesn’t explicitly outlaw the treatment I received, it does create a legal grey area in which women can be investigated and imprisoned for miscarrying. We are already seeing abortion bans affecting the medical care of conditions entirely unrelated to pregnancy.

In Texas, a six-week abortion ban means women experiencing miscarriage are denied care until they develop sepsis or forced to carry a dead fetus for weeks. In Wisconsin, one expecting mother bled for 10 days from an incomplete miscarriage doctors were barred from removing. Earlier this month, a Missouri woman suffering a life-threatening miscarriage couldn’t receive care under the state’s abortion ban. These accounts—once mere warnings of what could happen in a post-Roe America—are now reality for millions of people across the country.

Outlawing abortion inevitably impacts families experiencing pregnancy loss.

Reflecting on my experience makes me fearful for what other people in my shoes will go through, and what I may go through again in the future. I’m still growing my family. At any point, I could miscarry a baby that my family hoped and prayed for. Will a police officer knock on our door to investigate a pregnancy loss we are still grieving? Will I be allowed to make the medical decision to save my life if it endangers my fetus?

The extremists making these anti-abortion laws don’t know the answers to these questions, and they don’t care.

But discussions surrounding abortion must always include the loss of wanted pregnancies. Many families who spend several years and thousands of dollars trying to get pregnant face the unfortunately common experience of miscarriage and find themselves needing abortion care.

Outlawing abortion inevitably impacts families experiencing pregnancy loss. Hopeful parents see their dreams turned to nightmares as they navigate the legal minefield abortion bans created while seeking treatment. 

While extremist politicians have succeeded in banning abortion in 23 states, they want to go further by criminalizing the procedure nationwide. If they prevail, grieving parents like me could be jailed for losing a baby they wanted.

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

Up next:


Julia Callahan is an activist with Middle Georgia for Choice and lives in Macon, Ga., with her son Boston, daughter Berlin, and fiance Nathan.