Shaw: North Dakota abortion ban endangers pregnant women

Columnist Jim Shaw shares information from Dr. Ana Tobiasz, a Bismarck doctor who specializes in treating high-risk pregnancies. "When they made these laws in North Dakota, they didn’t think about the consequences,” Tobiasz told Shaw. “I’m disgusted, confused and enraged.”

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw
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“Abortion doesn’t just mean going to an abortion clinic.”

That comment comes from Dr. Ana Tobiasz of Bismarck. Tobiasz specializes in treating high-risk pregnancies and is highly respected around the country. She is terrified of what will happen to women in North Dakota who have serious complications with their pregnancies once the state’s abortion ban kicks in.

“I can’t practice the proper standard of care and offer these women the treatment that they deserve,” Tobiasz said.

Many pregnant women whom Tobiasz treats have their water break before the fetus is old enough to survive outside the womb. “When a woman’s water breaks, that allows bacteria to go into a uterus,” Tobiasz said. “That can cause a serious infection. These infections are life-threatening.”

So, at that point, the only choice is to induce, knowing that the baby will not survive.


“I induce to save the life of the mother,” Tobiasz said. “The only treatment is to get the baby out of the uterus. Technically, it’s an abortion. However, with the state’s abortion trigger law, this treatment won’t be allowed.”

Dr. Ana Tobiasz is a Bismarck-based doctor who specializes in the treatment of high-risk pregnancies.
Contributed / Dr. Ana Tobiasz

It’s tricky because when the water initially breaks, the woman is not near death.

“In that moment, she’s not threatened with dying,” Tobiasz said. “The threat is there over days or weeks. I would have to wait until she gets worse, which will likely happen. I can’t do anything until there’s an emergency, such as bleeding heavily or hemorrhaging. She will die unless I do something.”

It’s a real dilemma for doctors. “How sick does she have to be before I can act?” Tobiasz said. “It’s too gray for someone to intervene. It’s extremely difficult. The patient isn’t getting the medical treatment that they should get.”

Of course it’s unnecessarily dangerous to have to wait until patients are near death before you can properly treat them.

“It delays patient care,” Tobiasz said. “Women could die in the meantime. I know this will happen.”

Another option is to try to find a place with different laws, but that can also be difficult. “To get the proper care when they need it, women are going to have to go out of state,” Tobiasz said. “Do these women have the resources? Where will they go? There’s going to be fewer places we can send these people, and they’re going to be overloaded.”

Tobiasz also treats pregnant women who suffer from pre-eclampsia, which can cause strokes, swelling of the brain, kidney failure, liver failure or death.


“We recommend ending the pregnancy for women with pre-eclampsia. We recommend delivering right away,” Tobiasz said. “That’s the only option.”

Thus, North Dakota’s abortion ban will put handcuffs on doctors and will be devastating to women.

"When they made these laws in North Dakota, they didn’t think about the consequences,” Tobiasz said. “I’m disgusted, confused and enraged.”

Next week: What to do.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

"Does North Dakota really want women with complicated pregnancies to suffer? Does North Dakota really want a critical shortage of qualified obstetricians and to imprison doctors?" columnist Jim Shaw asks. "The legislature must act."

Opinion by Jim Shaw
InForum columnist Jim Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
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