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Retired Valley doctor recounts time when she helped 10-year-old give birth

Doctor shortage 110819
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 01:32:19-04

PHOENIX — The case of a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio who was denied an abortion and forced to seek care out of state continues stirring debate across the nation.

It's also raising some questions as to whether this will be the reality for girls and women in Arizona.

Dr. Susan Hughes, a retired physician in the Valley says she helped a 10-year-old girl give birth, more than two decades ago, and it’s haunted her ever since.

“I am terrified for women right now,” she told ABC15.

Dr. Hughes says she’s scared of what the post-Roe v. Wade era will bring to Arizona.

“I’m glad I’m not delivering babies right now,” Hughes added.

She delivered 3,000-4,000 little ones before retiring, but it’s the case of a young mother she cared for that haunts her.

“During my training, I took care of a 10-year-old. A lot of times they don’t even have their period yet,” she said.

She is talking about a child who she cared for during pregnancy, and eventually her delivery.

“Her body was so… so tiny. So petite. So underdeveloped but yet she was carrying this fetus and it was devastating. It was devastating for all of us that took care of her,” said Hughes.

“Was her body ready?” our crew asked.

“No. Her body was not ready. We ended up doing a C-section after a very long, uncomfortable, painful labor,” answered Hughes.

“What do you tell that 10-year-old when she looks at you scared?” we asked.

“You just hold her hand and tell her you’re going to be there with her, and you try to not have her see how scared you are for her,” added Hughes.

Arizona is a state in which there are no exceptions for rape or incest when it comes to the legality of abortions.

“At the age of 10, there is no consent. At the age of 12, 14… there is no consent. These are children having children,” Hughes stated.

Children that, at that age, don’t really have the right to do much.

“If a 10-year-old went to an adoption agency and said ‘hey, I want to adopt a baby.’ Could they? Could they go buy a pack of cigarettes? Could they go buy a drink? But they’re being forced to carry a pregnancy that their body, mind, spirit are not ready to have,” she told ABC15.

Hughes says hospital attorneys in the state are now determining care when it comes to abortions. Something she says is infuriating.

“Because as a physician, the goal is to save a life, and that is the woman in front of us who is breathing… has a heartbeat, has a choice. Has a life.”

Adding that these restrictions won’t stop abortions from happening.

Instead...

“Access to safe abortion is going to be impacted. It’ll lead to more death,” she said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) shows abortions among girls younger than age 15 increased by 33%, from 15% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in 2020 there were roughly 4,000 (3,916) teen births among teens between the ages of 15 and 19.

In light of this new reality, Hughes hopes politicians will see this and act.

“It should be her right to decide whether she wants to continue the pregnancy or not,” she told ABC15.