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Pregnant people today face Jane Austen-like hardships? Actually, it’s worse. | READER COMMENTARY

Pamela Jane in her commentary, “Are we back to the days of Jane Austen, when maternal death was a regular risk?” (Sept. 15), describes how dangerous childbirth was during the time of Jane Austen, when many women perishing from pregnancy-related complications. She likens the current post-Dobbs climate in the United States to that perilous Jane Austen era for pregnant women. While Black pregnant women have always been endangered in America, dying in greater numbers than white pregnant women and treated poorly by the medical establishment, anti-abortion Republicans are coming close to endangering the care of all pregnant women across this country. By placing strictures on abortions, ignorant politicians interfere in the autonomy and training of doctors who want to learn the panoply of skills obstetrics and gynecology offers, and by criminalizing abortion, they create fear and distaste for the specialty, discouraging medical students from training as obstetricians.

What is happening now in the U.S. is even more tragic than what happened during Jane Austen’s time in England. Then, the full scientific knowledge about pregnancy, its complications and comorbidities, did not exist. Women died in labor or during pregnancy because there were no amenities or medications to save them. Now, pregnant women will die in the U.S., in the midst of an abundance of medical knowledge, the availability of antisepsis, advanced medical equipment, antibiotics and fine surgical suites, because obstetricians who can help them will be too scared to help them or will be too confounded by the legalities of what they can and cannot do to save them in an emergency or there won’t be enough obstetricians to care for them.

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I suspect Jane Austen, who according to Pamela Jane had a phobia for childbirth, would appreciate the irony in technology and modernity bringing pregnant women neither safety nor freedom in affluent America.

— Usha Nellore, Bel Air

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