Legal at one clinic, illegal at another: How abortion bans make gestational age even less precise

If you want to understand the fickleness of pregnancy and the American laws that regulate it, one place to start would be a gas station in Iowa City, where a 31-year-old sat in the passenger seat of a gray Hyundai, making frantic calls. Her name was Stephanie Dworak, it was September 2021, and she was 20 weeks and five days pregnant. She’d already looked into the abortion clinics in her home state of Nebraska. For some of them, she was already too far along. Another one was booking three weeks out. She’d only started searching when she’d gotten a severe fetal diagnosis at 19 weeks; abortion was legal in Nebraska until 22. “They were very apologetic and just said that because of how far along I was, and their appointment availability, there was no way they’d be able to see me before I was at the 22-week mark,” she said.

That was what brought her and her husband Dave to Iowa City. The night before, they’d dropped off their 3-year-old with Dworak’s stepmom, a hair stylist, who’d taken the day off work to babysit. They’d both taken time off themselves. It would be a two-day procedure, so they’d booked a hotel. They’d left before dawn, driven 250 miles in time for their 8:30 a.m. appointment, and started yet another ultrasound — only to be told that, according to this scan, she was no longer eligible. “It read me as one week further along than every doctor in Omaha had,” she said. “So I was one day too far along for Iowa to do the procedure. I drove four hours to Iowa City and paid $250 for them to tell me, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you,’ and send me back to Omaha.’”

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