A Texas woman is opening up about how the state’s anti-abortion law, which prompted other states to follow, forced her to carry a dead fetus for weeks.
Marlena Stell and her husband had a daughter, born in 2020, but were actively trying to have a second child. In a CNN interview, Stell said she was ecstatic when she learned that she was pregnant late last summer. An ultrasound nearly eight weeks into her pregnancy showed no complications, but that was not the case at a follow-up appointment just two weeks later.
“She said, ‘There is no heartbeat. There is no viable pregnancy,’” Stell told CNN’s, Elizabeth Cohen.
Stell and her husband were heartbroken by the news, especially so when she asked her doctor to perform a dilation and curettage, better known as a D&C, which removes pregnancy tissue from the uterus. Stell said her doctor refused due to Texas’ anti-abortion law.
The D&C is the same procedure for removing a living fetus. Even though Stell suffered a miscarriage and did not have a living fetus inside her, she was denied medical care until she had additional ultrasounds proving that she had a miscarriage.
She called having to be told twice that she lost her baby “gut-wrenching.”
“You already know what you’re going to see,” she told CNN.
Yet, Stell said she was still denied the procedure even after the second ultrasound. She had to get a third ultrasound, meaning that she was carrying the dead fetus inside her uterus for about two weeks.
“It’s like I can’t grieve or move past it because I’m still carrying it,” she said.
In addition to the emotional pain of her miscarriage, Stell had intense physical pain, recalling that sometimes it hurt too much even to walk. Experts say carrying a dead fetus can lead to an infection that can make a woman unable to have children again, organ failure, or even death for the woman.
Under Texas law, doctors relieving women who have miscarried of that pain and the associated risks can be sued.
Stell first gained recognition as a beauty-focused YouTuber and shared her miscarriage experience on her channel in October 2021, but now her story is gaining more attention after the CNN interview.
“This is just the beginning of these horror stories,” said one Reddit user. “There will be many, many more to come.”
“I am so sorry for this poor woman and all the others like her who are going to have to suffer in this manner pointlessly,” said another. “Even going through a miscarriage, the part between when it starts and when it’s over, is incredibly traumatic, to be frank. This seems just unbearable.”
Stell said she and her husband are considering moving out of Texas before they try for more kids in the future.