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Missouri woman with dying baby recalls being turned away for abortion health care at 2 hospitals

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report found hospitals placed patient's life in "jeopardy."
Mylissa Farmer.jpg
Posted at 4:42 PM, May 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-02 19:17:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When her water broke last August, just 18 weeks into her pregnancy, Mylissa Farmer knew she needed to get to the nearest hospital.

Farmer, who lived at the time near Joplin, Missouri, went to Freeman Health System in Joplin.

Farmer said the doctors told her the pregnancy was no longer viable.

"I lost all my amniotic fluid and their best recommendation was for me to leave the state," Farmer told KSHB 41 I-Team reporter Jessica McMaster in an interview Tuesday. "They said the state laws weren't clear enough for them to act because our daughter still had a heartbeat even though her demise was eventual."

Her doctors in Joplin told her to look for care in Illinois, at least a several-hours-drive away. But no hospitals in Illinois were willing to provide her care.

She drove north to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas.

She says doctors there confirmed the dire situation, and said both the pregnancy - and her life - were at risk.

Farmer said she thought she would have the option to give birth to her daughter and then be able to hold her and say goodbye.

But when doctors returned to her side after talking with colleagues, she learned that wouldn't be an option.

"[The doctor] said none of the options were available, that it was too politically heated in this environment right now to care for us," Farmer said.

Farmer's case would eventually come under review by the Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

RELATED | Patient dies after University of Kansas Health System placed him in "immediate jeopardy"

In a report published last month, federal investigators concluded that the two hospitals violated federal law by placing Farmer's life in jeopardy.

The Associated Press reported on the first-of-its-kind federal investigation Monday.

"To hear that your life is less than a dying heartbeat in your body and people's politics get in the way of care, that's terrifying," Farmer told KSHB 41.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade. The court's ruling triggered into effect a law in Missouri that was quickly enacted. The law, passed in 2019, prohibits all abortions unless there is a critical medical reason.

In the CMS review of Farmer's case, investigators wrote "The hospital failed to stabilize [Farmer] within its capability and capacity when it determined it would not provide the necessary stabilizing treatment due to its interpretation of Kansas law."

It was less than three weeks before Farmer's medical emergency that Kansans voted against an amendment that would have allowed legislators to enact abortion restrictions.

After she was discharged from KU Hospital, Farmer drove back to Joplin to be admitted to a hospital there. It was during that drive she learned a hospital in Illinois would be able to treat her.

"Ever hour since my water broke, it was getting worse," Farmer said. "I was in more pain. I was in more confusion. The emotional trauma - the impending loss of our daughter was more than anyone should have to go through."

In a statement provided to KSHB 41 Monday night, a University of Kansas Heath System spokesperson said "The care provided to the patient was reviewed by the hospital and found to be in accordance with hospital policy."

The statement continued, "It met the standard of care based upon the facts known at the time and complied with all applicable law."

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told the Associated Press Monday that Farmer should not have had to go through that process in the first place.

"We want her, and every patient out there like her, to know that we will do everything we can to protect their lives and health, and to investigate and enforce the law to the fullest extent of our legal authority, in accordance with orders from the courts."

Attorney Alison Tanner is representing Farmer, and shared a similar message Tuesday.

"We hope that the University of Kansas will change its policies so no other pregnant person experiences a denial of health care like Mylissa did," Tanner told KSHB 41.

In a follow up statement Tuesday, the KU Health System spokesperson said it the hospital is "working with [CMS] to address their concerns."