May 9, 2023

Shifting Power Requires Bodily Autonomy

Leveraging Shareholder Votes for Reproductive Justice

Content Warning: Pregnancy loss, near-death experience.

Less than two months after the disastrous Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs, which gutted nearly 50 years of relative abortion access, 35-year-old Amanda Eid was rushed to a hospital in Austin, Texas. After months of trying to conceive with her husband, Josh, Amanda was finally pregnant. But a few months into her pregnancy her water broke. Doctors told her there was no way her baby would survive, and Amanda, suddenly in need of a recently outlawed abortion, barely escaped the ordeal with her life.

Prior to Dobbs, abortion was protected across the country under the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But only one week after the SCOTUS Dobbs decision, a Texas law went into effect that completely banned abortions with extremely limited exceptions, such as to save the life of the pregnant person. 

What happened to Amanda next is a horror story no family should have to endure. Although her pregnancy was not viable, she was denied access to abortion care under the new law. Amanda was sent home to wait until the fetus inside her lost its heartbeat, or until she endured a life-threatening condition that would allow doctors to legally provide an emergency abortion.

The couple spent three agonizing days grieving the loss of their very much desired pregnancy while monitoring Amanda’s condition to see when it would become life-threatening enough to gain her access to abortion care.

Then, rapidly, Amanda’s condition deteriorated into a nightmare scenario. Within minutes, her temperature skyrocketed, but she was shivering cold. By the time her husband got her to the hospital, she was too weak to walk in on her own.

It was only after her condition got this bad that Texas doctors felt they could legally provide an emergency abortion. Hours after the procedure, Amanda experienced a rapid-onset septic infection. Thanks to extraordinary medical intervention, her life was spared, but months later she’s still recovering, and her body endured scarring that unalterably lowers her chances of having a successful pregnancy in the future.

Here’s the kicker. . . . Amanda and her husband moved to Austin to work in relatively well-paid high-tech jobs. They had access to nearby state-of-the-art hospital care and insurance to cover most of the cost. As a white couple, they were spared the systemic racism so central to the skyrocketing Black maternal mortality rate. Yet, even with their privilege and resources, Amanda nearly died. And all this, at a time when she should have received medical care so she could grieve and heal from the devastating loss of a wanted pregnancy.

What if Amanda was one of the 27.5 million people in the U.S. without health coverage?

What if she was one of the 46 million people in the U.S. living in a rural area where hospital access is quickly becoming nonexistent as corporations shutter less profitable facilities? 

What if, in the hospital, she was met with anti-Black racism that impeded her access to timely lifesaving care? Sepsis is one of those conditions where every minute counts.

If Amanda was so narrowly able to survive, where does this leave poor and working-class pregnant people, uninsured families, folks residing in rural areas, and those battling racism on a daily basis?

Our Ask of Tenet Healthcare 

As far as we know, Amanda did not seek care at a Tenet Healthcare Corporation facility. 

But the questions her ordeal raises are ones we’re asking at Marguerite Casey Foundation, and as an investor with stock in healthcare corporations, including Tenet Healthcare Corporation, which is headquartered in Texas, we believe we have a responsibility to push for clarity and accountability on behalf of the communities we serve.

Tenet is headquartered in Texas and owns 65 hospitals and 500 healthcare facilities, including a growing number of Catholic hospitals. They own facilities in 19 states where abortions have been banned or severely restricted following Dobbs

As shareholders, we’re urging Tenet to give healthcare providers and the communities who rely on them for care clarity about the corporation’s emergency abortion policy.

As it currently stands, Tenet is sending mixed messages about emergency abortion care. It states the corporation follows the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, but this may contradict the company’s own statement that it follows “faith based commitments.”

When Tenet failed to provide clarity for us, we teamed up with Rhia Ventures and sent a memo to Tenet shareholders asking them to vote YES on a measure to get Tenet to report on:

  • its policy regarding the availability of abortions,
  • if the policy includes an exception for the life and health of the pregnant person,
  • and how Tenet defines an emergency medical condition.

The proxy vote is set to take place on May 25.

Why We’re Urging for Clarity

“We know that lack of access to reproductive care is a life-or-death situation, particularly for Black women, who are three times more likely to experience maternal mortality than white women in the United States. This is an issue that has become an area of emphasis for the foundation,” says Daniel Gould, MCF’s VP of Finance and Investments.

“As a bare minimum,” Daniel shares, “we're hoping Tenent articulates its emergency policy, but more public disclosure would be great, particularly given the risk of a SCOTUS decision that could narrow access to mifepristone, as well as the fact that we’re seeing clinics across the country shutter, which could lead to more demand for hospital emergency abortion care. We would love for Tenet to have more public disclosure to reduce some of the potential confusion that could arise. 

“If this vote is not successful,” Daniel continues, “that will run parallel to a reconsideration of our investment.”

This is about saving lives and moving resources in the direction of our vision as an organization. Without reproductive justice—including access to abortion care—people on the frontlines, their families, and their communities are robbed of bodily autonomy, which is absolutely necessary for building and shifting power to create a more just world.

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