Dr. Jennifer Gunter is a specialist in women’s health and pain medicine who is well known for shredding dubious medical claims. (If you haven’t read her criticisms of Gwyneth Paltrow’s “lifestyle” company Goop’s claims about the wonders of inserting a jade egg into your vagina, then you’ve been missing out.)
A few days ago, Dr. Gunter took to Twitter to address the controversy surrounding a New York state law that codifies the protections outlined in Roe v. Wade, and ensures that a woman’s access to abortion is protected even if the landmark Supreme Court case is overturned, a fear that many have expressed living under President Donald Trump’s administration.
The Reproductive Health Act (RHA), signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, removes the need for a doctor to perform some abortions and takes abortion out of the criminal code, classifying it as a public health issue. Anti-choice activists have come out against the RHA, however, because of a provision within the legislation that allows abortions after 24 weeks in cases where there is an “absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”
Despite well-documented evidence that restricting abortion actually kills women due to women attempting to self-induce their abortions, anti-choice activists have alleged that the law is a gateway to allowing anyone to “kill” their babies whenever they please at the direction of whomever they wish. (The law removes the requirement that only a licensed physician can perform an abortion, extending the ability to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives.)
Dr. Gunter, as you can imagine, is sick of the pseudoscience. In a now-viral Twitter thread, she, who once lived in a state “with no gestational age limit,” laid out the case for the law, and why patients opt for the process.
For starters: Abortions after 24 weeks are “very rare”:
I’ve done abortions after 24 weeks.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
For several years I lived in a state with no gestational age limit.
I have never done one that was not medically indicated.
I was never approached by any woman to do a non medically indicated abortion.
So spare me the lies.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
Abortion after 24 weeks is very rare.
It is very expensive.
These are not “whims” because a woman is tired of being pregnant.
These are situations with tragic fetal anomalies, sometimes compounded by maternal health issues
I know of one case after 24 weeks where there were no fetal anomalies. It took months to get the court order as the child’s parents would not consent. It was in the news, so not a HIPAA violation. She had raped by her brother if I remember correctly.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
She then presented some real-life examples of when fetal abnormalities might threaten the mother’s health and necessitate an abortion:
Here are some examples:— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
25 weeks, severe growth restriction and fetus not expected to survive. Pregnant person has severe pre eclampsia, chooses abortion over c-section
32 weeks, anencephalic fetus. Pregnant person just can’t take people touching her belly and asking about the baby. Chooses an early induction, which is technically an abortion.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
Triploidy pregnancy. Had been planning to deliver at term and have hospice. At 36 weeks, transverse lie. Can’t be induced for this reason. Does not want a c-section. Chooses a dilation and extraction.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
Abortions are not flights of fancy taken up by frivolous women: “Anyone, especially any doctor, who says these are not indicated is wrong,” Gunter said.
Anyone, especially any doctor, who says these are not indicated is wrong.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
If you have never done a post 24 week procedure, so you have spoken with her and also likely with her high risk OB and/or geneticist, you have zero credibility to discuss the procedure.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
Every pregnancy is different. Every case is different. Every woman’s life experience is different. That is why such legislation exists.
Sometimes hypertension in pregnancy is so bad that a 26 week fetus is the size of one that is 19 weeks. The mother is literally dying from her high blood pressure. The D and E may be safer and faster. Your patient is counseled by neonatology and OB and then she makes a choice.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
Imagine being 12 or 13, you are raped by your brother. Get pregnant. And you have to fight for emancipation to get an abortion?— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
I could go one. The permutations and combinations of pregnancy horror are truly bizarre and tragic.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 26, 2019
A doctor, a especially an OB/GYN, with no empathy or medical understanding of these situations? That is frightening.
Dr. Gunter’s matter-of-fact assessment prompted other women to share their stories, too.
My pro-life activist coworker had a "late-term abortion" to end her baby's suffering& save her own life due to a tragic medical problem (I can't remember what it was).She is still a pro-life activist & sees what she did as something other than abortion, when it was exactly that.— itstrainingcats&dogs🐱🐶 (@AbbyHartman) January 26, 2019
My son was 24 weeks along when my doctor gave him a shot to stop his heart, then induced delivery. Potter’s Syndrome. Bilateral renal agenis. Not compatible with life. And not detectable until the 20 week anatomy scan.— Max&Lucy (@MaxyandLucy) January 26, 2019
Thank you. I was induced at 17.5 weeks. My fetus had lethal birth defects. Anecephaly & rachischisis spina bifida. Her spine looked like an unzipped zipper on the ultrasound. Worst the tech had ever seen; dangerous to me to continue.— SayMyName (@JaxLeSigh) January 26, 2019
Thank you! I had one at 25 weeks and I will forever be grateful to the doctor who did so safely and with compassion.— Jenny Pierre 🤹🏼♀️ (@jenbenthehen) January 26, 2019
At 22 weeks I started bleeding and after a week laying down trying not to move... d&c 23 weeks and a permanent hole in my heart. Natural labor did not start. Induced labor would’ve been a riskier d&c at that point. My choice and my Dr.s diagnosis are not a political pawn.— T.Bell. (@Halfastorian) January 27, 2019
This epidemic of late-term abortions you keep hearing critics go on about? Yeah, they’re not a thing. It’s not like going to the store for a piece of candy. Human lives are at stake.
“I don’t do pregnancy terminations anymore,” Dr. Gunter told one commenter. “But I feel I need to share my experience because the lies are winning. I feel a duty to speak to the truth.”
I don’t do pregnancy terminations anymore. But I feel I need to share my experience because the lies are winning. I feel a duty to speak the truth.— Jennifer Gunter (@DrJenGunter) January 27, 2019
We should be thankful to medical professionals like Dr. Gunter for their service— and their willingness to speak the truth.