Lakeland woman describes agony of forced birth under Florida’s strict abortion law

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Deborah Dorbert
Deborah Dorbert

Deborah Dorbert of Lakeland was a few months pregnant when her doctor delivered disturbing news: Her unborn child had Potter’s Syndrome, which meant he did not have kidneys and his lungs were not developing normally. He likely would not survive outside the womb.

Despite that, her doctor, who worked at Lakeland Regional Health, said he could not end the pregnancy under Florida’s restrictive abortion law. She could either go through with the birth, knowing her child would likely no survive, or go to another state to have an abortion. Unable to bear the cost and fearing she could face legal consequences going to another state, Dorbert and her husband decided to go through with the birth.

Baby Milo lived 94 minutes. He was blue, cold to the touch and gasped for breath the entire time, Dorbert told WMNF WaveMakers with Janet & Tom. Now she is telling her story whenever she can to alert the public to the pain Florida’s abortion law is causing and to encourage voters to approve a Constitutional amendment on Florida’s ballot in November that would protect a woman’s reproductive life and prevent such cases from happening again.

Dorbert was pregnant when Florida banned abortions after 15 weeks. The Legislature, with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ support, later passed a six-week ban. And while it includes an exception for pregnancies when the fetus has a fatal abnormality, it requires two doctors to sign off and many doctors worry they could lose their license and end up in prison, said Amy Weintraub, the reproductive rights program director for Progress Florida.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration issued emergency rules earlier this month that it said was aimed at countering misinformation about the abortion law by the media, advocacy groups and President Bident. The rules say abortions are allowed under certain cases, but Potter’s Syndrome is not one of them.

Dorbert’s family practice physician, Dr. David Berger, said the law is so poorly worded many doctors are unsure what to do. He thinks the wording of the law would allow someone in Dorbert’s situation to end the pregnancy but that has not yet been tested.

Such uncertainty is why Progress Florida and other groups are campaigning for the Constitutional amendment. Dorbert said she will campaign for the amendment too so no other family has to endure what her family went through.

Hear the entire conversation by clicking the link below, going to the WaveMakers archives or by searching for WMNF WaveMakers wherever you listen to podcasts.

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