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He says an abortion ban hurt his family. Two years after Dobbs, he fights them

Two men stand on stage at an abortion rights rally
Derick Cook
Derick Cook (right) stands with Aaron Bos-Lun (left), deputy executive director at Men4Choice, at a rally for abortion rights.

Derick Cook wants more men to get active in pushing for abortion protections. He and his wife want a child, but says everyone should have a choice.

Monday marks two years since the Dobbs decision, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended decades-long federal protections for abortion. Since then, states like Florida have significantly restricted access to the procedure.

On May, Florida enacted a law restricting most abortions through six weeksof pregnancy. However, days after the Dobbs ruling, the state implemented a 15-week law that Derick Cook says nearly cost his wife, Anya, her life.

The couple, who live in Broward County, desperately want a baby, and after many miscarriages thought they would finally get the chance when Anya made it into the second trimester in late 2022. Then Anya's water broke early that December, when she was around 16 weeks pregnant.

They rushed to the emergency room at the Broward Health hospital in Coral Springs, but Derick Cook said a doctor told them the 15-week ban prevented him from inducing labor and sent them home with instructions to return if symptoms worsened.

“Going inside the emergency room trying to get help and being pushed away by doctors because they're afraid of losing their license or going to jail. We felt like outcasts,” Cook said.

Derick and Anya Cook standing outside the White House with the Washington monument in the background.
Derick Cook
Derick and Anya Cook's story garnered national attention, including from first lady Jill Biden. who hosted Anya and other women affected by abortion bans at the White House last June to commemorate the first anniversary of the Dobbs decision.

Anya delivered the fetus the next day in the bathroom of a hair salon. She returned to the hospital and nearly lost her life from blood loss.

Her story made national news, and more women who had the same condition, known as previable preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), shared similar experiences of being denied medical care because of uncertainty about abortion restrictions.

After Florida’s six-week abortion law went into effect, the state's Agency for Health Care Administration released temporary emergency rules declaring that PPROM qualifies as a medical exception. But that wasn't clear before.

“I just feel like no matter what they try to do now, what Anya’s been through and what other women have been through, it still doesn’t justify the fact that they put bans on abortions when these women needed the health care they needed,” Cook said.

The family is still grappling with the trauma of what happened, he said. But the experience motivated him to speak out against abortion bans he says endanger lives.

“I would rather step up and protect my wife as much as possible because she's already been through enough, and with my voice I can raise awareness with other men and get them to speak as well,” he said.

Cook is an advocate with Men4Choice. The group educates men about reproductive health and encourages them to “get off the sidelines” and become more active in supporting abortion rights.

“We're out here fighting and fighting because we believe in freedom, we believe in choice,” Cook said. “And women should have their choice over their body.”

Voters will get to weigh in on the issue in Florida during the November election. Amendment 4 is on the ballot and would change the state’s constitution to protect abortion access until fetal viability, which is usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.