A red state abortion ban nearly killed his wife. Now he’s speaking out.

abortion ban

Photograph courtesy of Ryan Hamilton, design by Francesca Daly

By Bonnie Fuller

June 13, 2024

Ryan Hamilton had to race his wife to the hospital after she had a miscarriage, fell unconscious, and started bleeding out on their bathroom floor. Here, he explains what happened.

As Told to Bonnie Fuller

My wife and I first met online. Neither of us were big fans of online dating but this was at the beginning of Covid, and then we very quickly went on a date in ‘real life.’ 

I had never really thought about having kids. I had been a touring musician for a long time and my life was so wrapped up in traveling all over the world, that it wasn’t something that I thought for myself.

But the woman who is now my wife brought it up on our first date and after I met her and she raised the idea of it, I just kind of thought, ‘I do want kids.’ It was strange for me but I realized that I really liked this person and could see having kids with them.

I’m 43 now and she’s 37, a medical doctor, and we’ve been married almost two years. Getting pregnant with our first daughter happened pretty quickly. We didn’t do anything to prevent it and now our baby girl is 9 months old.

It was terrifying at first to have a baby but also wonderful. As soon as my daughter was home from the hospital, this whole different ‘girl dad’ mode kicked into me that I didn’t know I had. I was surprised by how determined I was to make sure that I protected her.

I love being a dad.

And then my wife and I had a total surprise when she got pregnant again a few months later. We didn’t know that her body was ready to get pregnant again, but my wife had told me she wanted two or three kids so we just started with all the prenatal vitamins and iron, so it would be a successful pregnancy.

The first sign of trouble came at the start of her 13th week. She told me in passing that something just didn’t feel right. Then two days later, on a Thursday afternoon, out of nowhere, she started to have sharp abdominal pains and cramping and she started to bleed.

During her first pregnancy, she had had some spotting, which her OB/GYN told her was normal. But this was nothing like that.

Her condition was so alarming that after 20 or 30 minutes, we decided to head urgently to a medical center that was close by—we thought it would be less chaotic than a hospital ER.

When we arrived, they took us right in and performed a sonogram on my wife and that’s when we got the devastating news that my wife was having a miscarriage. The doctor confirmed that the baby no longer had a heartbeat and then determined that its heart had stopped beating a week prior, because it had stopped growing.

My wife was just hysterical. It breaks your heart. We had already been talking about baby names and whether we were having a girl or a boy. We had been so excited about the pregnancy. I still get a lump in my throat when I think about losing the baby.

The doctor we saw that day explained that we had two options at that point. The first was to get a D & C, a medical procedure which would remove the remains of the baby and the tissue inside the uterus, since my wife had had what’s called an ‘incomplete miscarriage.’ The body had terminated the pregnancy without naturally expelling all the fetus’ remains. However, they couldn’t perform the D & C at that facility.

The 2nd option was that we could “handle” this at home with a prescription for misoprostol, a drug used commonly for miscarriage care and for abortions.

It seemed just insane and confusing that we were being sent home. I mean how long is it acceptable for a woman to walk around knowing she has her dead baby inside of her? That should not be okay.

But we were trusting them to walk us through this devastating situation and the path they led us down was to go home with a prescription which we couldn’t fill until the next morning. The local pharmacy we use is in a rural area outside of Dallas, Texas, where we live, and it was already closed for the day.

We were worried because not all pharmacies in Texas will fill a prescription for misoprostol. 

[Editor’s note: Texas was the first state in the country to pass a law banning virtually all abortions, a year ahead of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which had made abortion legal across the country for 50 years. Since then, some pharmacies and pharmacists in the state have refused to fill prescriptions for miscarriage medications, since they are also used for abortions.]

Fortunately, our local pharmacy, which has an all female staff, did fill it the next morning and my wife inserted the first of the two prescribed pills, vaginally, according to the instructions we had been given.

About an hour or two later, she began to moan and bleed more profusely and pretty quickly. It seemed to us like it wasn’t going the way it was supposed to.

We called the medical facility and they said that it might take 2 or 3 rounds of the misoprostol to complete the miscarriage. So we received a second prescription. We also called our OB/GYN but were unable to get an immediate appointment.

By Friday night, after using these two rounds of the medication, my wife was in horrible pain and bleeding profusely. Her life was now laying in bed and in being the bathroom all night long. By the next morning, she was losing color in her face and felt dehydrated, so we wanted to have her rechecked in person. We headed to the same medical facility that we had first gone to. It was now Saturday.

But this time, a doctor—who was an older man—was on duty and without even touching my wife or doing another ultrasound, he said to us: “Due to the current stance, I am not going to prescribe you this medicine. I am not going to give you the refill.”

My wife was just a furious mess. She had some words with this man. We were helpless. She was bleeding and bleeding and bleeding. We’re on this island of, ‘what do we do?” And he just sat there.

We looked around and all the nurses who had been so nice didn’t know what to do. They all looked like they wanted to help, but they couldn’t. It was up to the doctor.

I had been aware of Texas’s almost total abortion ban — it’s all over the news. We had thought the law and its repercussions were horrible and ‘look what happened to that poor woman or family’ but we never thought that my wife having a miscarriage would be affected by these laws.

It’s miscarriage care, not abortion care. But the D & C procedure (and misoprostol) are used for both — that must be why there is confusion. 

[Editor’s note: Doctors in Texas face fines of up to $100,000, sentences of up to 99 years in prison, and loss of their medical licenses if they perform an abortion, which is illegal except to save the life of the mother or for a couple of very narrow medical exceptions. However, Texas law does not make it illegal to remove a dead fetus from the uterus, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.]

Texas doctors are trying to navigate all these things when the only thing they should really have to worry about is the health of women like my wife.

We decided to drive to another hospital that we trusted, where my wife had delivered our baby girl, but it was about an hour away. Our daughter was in the back seat and we were trying to make it seem for her like we were going on an adventure. We didn’t want her to pick up on how upset we were.

At that hospital, they confirmed that the baby had no heartbeat and was still inside my wife despite the two rounds of misoprostol and all the bleeding and cramping. They kept my wife there for three or four hours repeatedly asking her the same weird questions like when she had her last period.

Finally, they told her that she had the option of waiting one or two weeks until they could schedule a D & C procedure or they could give her a third and stronger dose of misoprostol.

It seemed like insanity with my wife bleeding profusely to leave a dead fetus inside her for up to two weeks. While I was waiting for the doctor there to finally give us options I had begun researching miscarriage complications and reading about women who had almost died or even died from sepsis infections, if they weren’t treated correctly. I was getting pretty freaked out.

I read about women having to leave the state of Texas to get the treatment they needed. Were we going to have to leave the state?

It was now Saturday afternoon. My exhausted wife decided that she just wanted to just get this over with so we took the third prescription which was for a stronger dose of misoprostol.

Once we got home, this round of the medication was very different. There was far more blood and pain. My wife was up all night bleeding and crying on the toilet. She was telling me that she was worried. She looked gray. And on top of the physical pain, she was upset because she was losing the baby. It was just brutal.

By the morning she asked me to bring her a pillow, blankets, and a heating pad because her back was hurting so much and she laid down in the bathroom. She was feeling really cold, but clammy and sweaty.

I was playing with our daughter in the living room with the bathroom door open, so I can hear her, but around 10 a.m., I saw I’d missed a call from her on my phone. I still carry some serious guilt for missing that call. 

I walked into the bathroom and I see her collapsed on the floor in an awkward position with no color in her body. I thought, ‘oh my God, I lost her,  she’s dead.’ There was blood from the toilet to the floor.

I just started yelling her name, trying to get her to respond but she didn’t. I picked her up and sat her on the toilet and she started moaning a bit, which in the moment was reassuring.

I think as humans and we as husbands — and something I didn’t know I had — when you’re thrown into a situation like this, instinct just takes over and the adrenaline and fear take over and you want to help.

I remember looking at my wife’s chest and it was moving. There were signs of life,  which you shouldn’t have to look for in these situations. I shouldn’t be there wondering if my wife is alive. 

I yelled at her that we were going to the hospital and she started to come to. I carried my wife into the kitchen and laid her down while I grabbed my baby daughter out of the playpen and put her into her car seat in the truck.  My wife was unconscious again and somehow I managed to carry her to the truck and buckle her in.

We headed to a different hospital that was just 10 minutes away. 

I felt like I could get her there faster than calling 911 and also I didn’t trust anybody to help us at this point. We’d been trying for days to get help and nobody wanted to give it.

When I got to the hospital, I pulled up to the emergency entrance, jumped out, leaving my wife and baby in the car and ran inside yelling, ‘I need somebody, my wife’s unconscious and hemorrhaging ‘ and two women came running out quickly.

I helped them get my unconscious wife onto this special wheelchair they had. They wheeled her back into the hospital and hooked her up to an IV to start administering fluids.

Then I called my wife’s brother, who lives nearly and he rushed over to take care of my daughter.

When the doctor came in to see my wife, he said to me: ‘I’m so glad that you brought her in when you did.”

I know he was trying to tell me a good thing, but it really made me mad.  I was thinking, ‘she shouldn’t be here in the first place.’

She was unconscious for about two hours. I was freaking out. even though the doctor did reassure me that ‘yes, it’s scary, but she’s going to be ok.’ They said my wife was severely dehydrated and had lost a lot of blood. Her body didn’t have enough blood and fluids to stay conscious. She needed lifesaving care. They [the medical team] were trying to figure out if she was going to need a blood transfusion.

They also confirmed that the miscarriage had finally been completed.

[Editor’s note: We spoke to multiple doctors about what happened to Ryan’s wife, and received confirmation that she could definitely have died from her loss of blood, which made her lose consciousness.]

When my wife started to come to, she started to unhook herself from the IV. She didn’t want to be poked and prodded anymore, but we had to get her to stay a little longer.

My wife just didn’t trust these people at the hospital. [Medical professionals] had let her down in the past few days, in the darkest moments of her entire life, when she needed help the most. They had failed her numerous times. She wasn’t going to trust that they were going to take good care of her at that moment.

She walked out of that hospital way sooner than she should have, but she wanted to go home.

She was weak, dizzy, and still bleeding as I helped her back into the car to take her home.  We were both so exhausted at that point, but especially her.

It’s been about [three] weeks since that last visit to the hospital and we’re out of the woods on a lot of levels, but we may still need for my wife to get a D & C to remove leftover tissue that is still in her uterus. It will take 6 weeks for my wife to replenish all the blood she has lost. We have an appointment with my wife’s OB/GYN, but it’s not for almost two weeks.

What happened to us here in Texas should not be normalized — what happened to my wife was nothing ‘normal.’ I think the Texas abortion law has made it gray and confusing for doctors. 

I don’t think either miscarriage or abortion are black and white things. It’s complicated. I want women to be protected and miscarriage and abortion to be between a woman and her doctor. Period. 

It should be something a family feels safe to go through. I want to do my part in undoing these barbaric laws and go back to where women can get the care they need. My wife was a victim and the horrible reality here is this could happen to anyone.

I think it’s important for me to tell people that, ‘yes, this really happens.’ I want to do whatever I can, to have it not happen again.

I don’t want my daughter to ever have to experience what my wife just went through. And I don’t want my wife to have to experience it again if we get pregnant again. There’s a level of fear. Now, if my wife gets pregnant again, heaven forbid if anything goes wrong, it’s terrifying.

We’ve talked a lot about whether we want to try and have more kids and we just don’t know. Of course, we’d like to try but we just feel unsure. We don’t know.

We don’t want to leave Texas. We grew up here, our families are here, and our livelihoods. We like it here. We want to stay and fix it.

I want to also tell men out there that think this is just a ‘women’s problem’ — no it’s absolutely your problem. I’ve heard that I’m the first guy to speak out about this and my response is ‘why?’ That’s wrong. 

Look at your wives and daughters and sisters if you think that all this is just a ‘women’s problem.’

How do we as men not want to protect them and make sure they’re OK? I think every good man should feel a sense of responsibility to make sure that any woman put in the position that my wife was put in, gets what they need to be ok.

Also I think that people who believe women should have these rights should vote accordingly in elections. I don’t care if a person [or candidate] is a Republican or Democrat, it shouldn’t matter. I’m in support of whoever stands up for women and their doctors being able to make the decision about their own health.

Author

  • Bonnie Fuller

    Bonnie Fuller is the former CEO & Editor-in-Chief of HollywoodLife.com, and the former Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, USWeekly and YM. She now writes about politics and reproductive rights. She can be followed on her Substack at: BonnieFuller1 ‘Your Body, Your Choice.

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