- As more states restrict abortion access following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, OBGYNs are expressing concern.
- Children who give birth can face potentially fatal conditions like chronic infections and preeclampsia.
- If the baby does survive, they tend to have low birth weights and can face conditions like poor blood flow, trouble breathing, stillbirth, and early death.
After Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced plans to investigate a doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim, reproductive health experts have issued warnings about the life-threatening consequences of young girls giving birth.
In a June 13 story published in The Indy Star, Dr. Caitlin Bernard said she provided an abortion to the 10-year-old, who traveled from Ohio based on a referral from a doctor who specializes in child-abuse cases. Bernard told the outlet that the girl was six weeks and three days along in her pregnancy. In Indiana, abortion is illegal after 22 weeks. In Ohio, the procedure is illegal after six weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
In response, Rokita said he would investigate whether Bernard committed a crime because she helped an abortion seeker who crossed state lines.
"If Dr. Bernard has failed to file the required reports on time, she has committed an offense, the consequences of which could include criminal prosecution and licensing repercussions," Rokita wrote in a letter to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, according to The Indy Star.
Gynecologists are more concerned about the potentially fatal consequences of a child giving birth, like days-long labor, preeclampsia, eclampsia, chronic infections, and pelvic inflammatory disease. An estimated 770,000 girls under 15 give birth every year, according to the World Health Organization. Pregnancy is also one of the top causes of death for girls between 15 and 19.
According to the American College and Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnancy is safest after a person's teenage years. A woman's peak reproductive years are between her late teens and late twenties, the ACOG website says.
Young mothers don't have fully developed pelvises, which causes an extremely difficult birth
Since a child's pelvis isn't fully developed, they may be too small to give vaginal birth, even if the fetus is small, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a board-certified OBGYN at Yale University School of Medicine, told People.
As a result, labor could last for five days. After that, the baby usually dies, Dr. Shershah Syed, a gynecologist and expert on maternal mortality in Pakistan, told The New York Times.
During this labor period, the fetus could press down on a girl's bladder and urethra, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease or tissue rupturing between her vagina, bladder, and rectum, Dr. Ashok Dyalchand, who's provided healthcare to pregnant adolescent girls for 40 years, told The Times.
While pregnant, girls below child-bearing age are more likely to develop preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure and kidney and liver damage, Minkin told People. Untreated, preeclampsia can lead to seizures in the mother and death of the fetus.
Girls are also more likely to need Cesarean sections when giving birth than women of child-bearing age because of their body-development differences. And since girls are already going through so many body changes without pregnancy, carrying one could lead to extreme mental torment, said Minkin.
"Pregnancy can be tough to deal with for a 24 or 34-year-old woman, let alone a 10-year-old child," Minkin told People.
If the baby does survive, they tend to have low birth weights and can face conditions like poor blood flow, trouble breathing, stillbirth, and early death.