‘On the Brink’ Depicts ‘Stark and Raw Reality’ for Pregnant Women Facing State Abortion Bans | Exclusive

ABC News’ Rachel Scott tells TheWrap about the Impact x Nightlight episode ahead of it its broadcast debut

"On the Brink" uncovers the dangerous medical complications endured by 18 pregnant women and nearly 100 physicians who are caught in a legal web trying to provide health care

ABC News Studios’ “On the Brink,” an original “Impact x Nightline” report from Diane Sawyer and senior congressional correspondent Rachel Scott, is getting the primetime treatment with a broadcast special airing Friday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

The project, which first premiered on Hulu on Dec. 14, shares the stories of a group of 18 women from 10 different states which have all put laws in place restricting abortions. These women were forced to make gut-wrenching decisions after learning that the babies they desperately wanted would never be viable.

The women gathered in Denton, Texas to recount the dangerous medical complications they endured that required urgent termination of their babies to save their lives, health and future fertility. Some of the women said that because of the laws, they were sent home from hospitals and told to return once they became sick enough to qualify for care under the new laws. Others fled their home states, sometimes traveling thousands of miles and spending their life savings to get health care. 

“For every woman that we had in that room, there was one more woman who told us that they just weren’t ready to share their story yet that they were still dealing with the impact of the trauma that they went through. But they shared in that same experience that the women who gathered there told us about,” Scott, who has covered the topic of abortion access since the introduction of Texas’ SB8, told TheWrap in an exclusive interview. “It was just deeply personal and intimate and emotional, and it really painted a picture of a very stark and raw reality that these women have gone through as a result of these laws in their state.”

Among the women whose stories are highlighted in the special is Anya Cook, who was denied access to an emergency termination in Florida after being diagnosed with preterm premature rupture of membranes — when a pregnant woman’s water breaks before the pregnancy is viable.

“She went home and thought she was going to die within a matter of days. She went to the hair salon because she was preparing herself to die — she said, ‘I hope my mother doesn’t hear this,’ because she wanted to get her locks retwisted so that it wouldn’t be something her mother would have to deal with if she passed away,” Scott recalled. “She ended up delivering her non-viable fetus in the bathroom of a hair salon, alone.”

Cook, who hemorrhaged, immediately called her husband Derek and was rushed to the hospital. While doctors were able to save Cook’s life, she ended up losing half the blood in her body.

“I was standing in the back watching Diane do that interview and I just had one thought in the back of my head: I just kept asking myself, is this the type of health care that we want for pregnant women in this country?” Scott added. “And I think that ended up being the reoccurring question throughout every single interview that we did.”

Scott and Sawyer also spoke with some of the women’s husbands — one of which was against abortion in all cases, until his wife was diagnosed with a rare medical complication and denied access to an emergency termination.

“It completely changed his point of view,” Scott said. “And his message was, this shouldn’t have to happen for you to understand that these laws are extremely vague, they are complex, and that they are affecting the health of the mother, and their future fertility is now on the line as a result of these consequences.”

ABC News spoke to nearly 100 physicians, many of whom described the challenges and confusion about what medical care they are allowed to provide, as well as fears for their patients’ lives. These obstacles come as doctors attempt to provide care for their patients and protect themselves from prison time, large fines and the loss of their medical licenses.

“As a result, some doctors have left the states where these bans are currently in place, because they feel like they cannot help their patients. Other doctors are considering leaving the states because they feel like they cannot properly help their patients,” Scott explained. “So the impact on the health care system as a whole is far-reaching, and the doctors that we spoke to warned us that we are only just beginning to see the ripple effects of that.”

Since the premiere of “On the Brink,” Scott said, some lawmakers in states that restrict abortion access have become more aware of the unforeseen medical complications that are similar to those that the women interviewed by Scott and Sawyer went through.

“In some states, they tried to change the laws to account for the health of the mother,” Scott added. “And in many states, that was met with opposition from other lawmakers who thought that it would become a slippery slope if they started to include every single exception possible or every single complication possible.”

After reporting extensively on the story for months, Scott hopes that her and Sawyer’s work will paint a “much fuller picture of the deep realities and the consequences of these laws that are playing out across the country.”

“I hope that when people watch this, they recognize that these women are not anomalies, that this is happening to women all across the country, in ways that we may not even know,” she added. “Awareness is key, and people don’t realize the impact of any particular legislation or any policy that goes into effect unless people who are immediately affected by it come out and share their story. I think these 18 women have really shined a light on the dire and stark realities of the consequences of these laws in a way that really hasn’t been brought to the forefront before.”

“We are thrilled to present Impact x Nightline’s groundbreaking episode, ‘On the Brink,’ as a primetime special on ABC following its success streaming on Hulu,” ABC News president Kim Godwin told TheWrap. “This approach reaffirms our commitment to delivering unparalleled content experiences to our audience across all platforms.”

“On the Brink” is currently available to stream on Hulu.


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