Earlier this year, after a Texas Court of Appeals upheld the state’s new incredibly strict abortion laws, Gov. Rick Perry released a statement cheering the court’s decision. Perry said it was “good news for Texas women and the unborn,” and that he would “continue to fight for the protection of life and women’s health in Texas.”
What Perry should have said is that Texas would continue to prevent women from seeking safe, legal, constitutionally-protected abortions and subject the unborn and their mothers to the state’s legal system.
Jessica De Samito is a 30-year-old US military veteran from Shertz, Texas, who has been diagnosed with anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) . So far, her story isn’t a rare one. Approximately 20 percent of active duty and 42 percent of reserve component soldiers require mental health treatment.
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include nightmares or recurring flashbacks of the traumatic event, sleeplessness, increased anger and irritability, and anxiousness. These symptoms often lead to depression; the rate of suicide among military populations continues to climb at a higher rate than that of the general population.
De Samito self-medicated with drugs to deal with her PTSD. Unfortunately, this also isn’t an uncommon story. Studies show that drug or alcohol abuse was found in 30 percent of Army suicide deaths from 2003 to 2009 and in nearly half of non-fatal suicide attempts from 2005-2009.
In 2011, De Samito was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and was released on parole in February of this year. Unable to shake her addiction, De Samito was still struggling with opiate use.
Then she found out she was pregnant, which is where De Samito’s story becomes different. She decided to seek help for her addiction and began methadone treatment, which is the medically recommended course of action for pregnant women. De Samito, however, knew she she would fail a required drug test –a condition of her parole– because she had used opiates before starting her treatment program.
This week, De Samito was put in jail as a result of that positive drug screen and was denied her methadone treatment for two days. The problem with this isn’t the violent withdrawal that she would experience herself, including abdominal cramps, vomiting, sweating, and diarrhea; it is that withdrawal could harm De Samito’s unborn child, maybe even cause a miscarriage. The Center for Substance Abuse and Treatment says “withdrawal of [pregnant women] from methadone is not indicated or recommended.”
De Samito contacted the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), who, along with human rights lawyer Alicia Perez, stepped in and made sure that De Samito is being given her appropriate dosage– at least for now. The parole violation could possibly lead to her reincarceration, which could cause another disruption in treatment.
“No woman should be punished with the denial of health care and the threat of stillbirth,” a press release from the NAPW said. “Forced sudden withdrawal is not only dangerous to Ms. De Samito and her pregnancy, but has been condemned as ‘tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ by a 2013 U.N. human rights report.”
De Samito is not the first, and most likely won’t be the last, pregnant woman to be denied this treatment. But denying women health care that the medical community deems imperative for their unborn children isn’t exactly proof that Gov. Perry is really fighting for either group like he publicly stated he would; it’s just another example of his hypocrisy.