Abortion Bans Skirt a Medical Reality: For Many Teens, Childbirth Is a Dangerous Undertaking

by | Oct 7, 2022 | Health

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Maryanna’s eyes widened as the waitress delivered dessert, a plate-sized chocolate chip cookie topped with hot fudge and ice cream.

Sitting in a booth at a Cheddar’s in Little Rock, Maryanna, 16, wasn’t sure of the last time she’d been to a sit-down restaurant. With two children — a daughter she birthed at 14 and a 4-month-old son — and sharing rent with her mother and sister for a cramped apartment with a dwindling number of working lights, Maryanna rarely got out, let alone to devour a Cheddar’s Legendary Monster Cookie.

On this muggy September evening, though, she was having dinner with her “sister friend” Zenobia Harris, who runs the Arkansas Birthing Project, an organization working to reduce the odds that Arkansas women and girls die from pregnancy and childbirth. In a highchair next to her, Maryanna’s daughter, Bry’anna, spiraled sideways and backward, her arms outstretched, flying. Her eyes would settle on her grilled cheese, and she’d swoop her small hand down to pick up the sandwich.

Maryanna suffered mightily during Bry’anna’s birth. (KHN is not using the family’s last name to protect Maryanna’s privacy.) She remembers telling her mother, “I don’t want to do none of this.” Nurses routinely checked to see how far she had dilated, a painful prodding of the ce …

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