OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) against Oklahoma Children’s Hospital after a woman was denied an abortion for her life-threatening, nonviable pregnancy.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Jaci Statton, a 26-year-old Oklahoma woman who was diagnosed with a partial molar pregnancy—a condition where a nonviable embryo develops with a tumor that may become cancerous, and lead to severe bleeding, high blood pressure, preeclampsia and death.

According to the complaint, Jaci was sent to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center for an abortion, but was denied because there was still fetal cardiac activity.

That hospital then transferred her to Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, which also refused to perform an emergency abortion despite confirming that Jaci faced a threat to her life without treatment, according to CRR.

Staff made it clear why they were refusing to treat Jaci, telling her, in sum and substance, that they believed that they were prevented from providing care due to Oklahoma law until Jaci was near death.

HHS complaint

Stratton and her husband eventually travelled to Wichita, Kansas, to receive care.

“Oklahoma’s laws nearly killed me. Even though I had an extremely dangerous pregnancy and was repeatedly bleeding, I was told to wait in a hospital parking lot until I was near death in order to get the life-saving care I needed,” said Statton. “I ended up having to travel almost 200 miles out of state for care—it was the longest and most terrifying ride of my life. No one ever thinks they need an abortion, but I am living proof that abortion is healthcare. It’s not safe to be pregnant in Oklahoma. With this complaint, I want to make sure that no one else has to suffer the way I did.”

The complaint argues Children’s violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), that requires emergency rooms to provide “stabilizing” care – which CRR says can include abortions to patients facing medical emergencies.

“Pregnant people should not have to fear that they will be denied life-saving treatment from Oklahoma hospitals, nor should they be forced to wait until they are at death’s door before health care providers intervene,” the complaint reads. “EMTALA was designed to ensure that everyone—including people experiencing complications due to pregnancy—would be able to obtain timely medical care in emergencies.”

The HHS Office of the Inspector General can fine a EMTALA-violating hospital or physician for each violation. Severe violations can lead to termination of the hospital’s Medicare Provider Agreement.

KFOR reached out to OU Health for comment and they sent the following statement:

“Our physicians and staff remain steadfast and committed to providing the highest quality and compassionate care for women of all ages and stages of life. Our healthcare complies with state and federal laws and regulatory compliance standards. Our physicians and staff are aware of and follow state and federal laws.”