Friday, February 18, 2011

Activism

Planned Parenthood is under attack. I fail to understand how the religious right thinks that denying basic medical care to women will prevent abortions. It boggles the mind. If you care about this, please go here and sign the petition.

I'm going one step further. I am sending my story to congress. I want them to know that this issue is not black and white. I want them to know the level of suffering they are inflicting on families in their blind zealousness. Below is a letter I wrote, please let me know what you think. I can't help but get angry whenever abortion issues surface but I don't want my letter to be too combative.

I won't be sending this letter as an argument against the attack on Planned Parenthood, I don't want to cloud the issue because they are attacking basic medical care, not strictly abortions. But I do want this to be read and considered as this debate seems to be heating up more and more recently.

Letter to Congress

Dear Madams and Sirs,

I want to share my story with you in the hopes that you will think about families like mine when considering abortion legislation.

Most people in the abortion debate are thinking of careless teens that use abortion as a form of back-up birth control when their carelessness gets them into trouble. This may be an accurate picture of some of the women using abortion services, but it is by no means an encompassing one. Many advocates of strict abortion laws are willing to allow exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother, but I believe these “exceptions” are often too limited to the most extreme of circumstances. It is easy for people not personally invested in the outcome to make abortion a black and white issue. It is not.

I do believe that ending the life of an unborn child for a purely selfish reason is amoral and a terrible waste. I also believe that it is not my right or responsibility to determine what constitutes a selfish reason in someone else’s life. Is it selfish for an abused teenager to try anything to avoid worse abuse? Is it selfish for a mother of 6 to want to avoid another mouth to feed and the threat of homelessness or starvation?

Just before Christmas in 2009 I was faced with an excruciating choice. The baby that I had wanted so badly for years, the one I took multiple medications with terrible side effects to conceive, developed with multiple, severe anomalies. I had no idea anything was wrong. I declined the first trimester testing and the quad screen showed no elevated risk. I went to my 20 week ultrasound expecting nothing worse than an uncooperative baby that wouldn’t allow us to determine the sex. I knew when they started the ultrasound that something was wrong. I knew fluid showed up as black and the baby’s brain was two large black ovals. I said nothing and hoped I just didn’t know what I was looking at. The doctor was quick to dash those hopes. We didn’t know until a few days later, but our baby was missing a large part of the second chromosome. He had so many problems that it took three visits to see them all. He had fluid on the brain. His brain was missing the membrane that separates the hemispheres and it was being squeezed into his spinal cord. He had bilateral (both sides) cleft lip and palate. He either had no stomach or his esophagus did not connect to the stomach. He had spina bifida and was already paralyzed from the waist down. His hands were clenched, indicating severe neurological damage. His heart had 3 major defects. His kidneys were enlarged. His legs were twisted.

No one would tell us for sure if he would live. They all said the outlook was “extremely grim”. The last specialist we saw said that there was a chance he would live on his own if he made it to term, but he would require several immediate surgeries. He would likely never eat, hear, see, move, or speak. He would certainly require several surgeries immediately after birth. He would likely require many, many surgeries after that to alleviate suffering. He would likely not live long and could be in severe pain the entire time, with no ability to communicate.

We thought about trying to carry to term and letting nature take its course, even though there was some risk to my health, but we were told that we would not be allowed to refuse medical treatment once he was born. If his heart was strong enough to keep going on its own the doctors would likely go to court to get an order for the spina bifida, cleft palate, and esophagus to be repaired. We wanted to give our son a chance at life, but not if the life would be nothing but suffering with no chance of any kind of communication. In the end, though it tore us apart, we decided to prevent that level of suffering. When I was struggling with the decision I asked myself what my reasons were for wanting to continue the pregnancy. I wanted to be sure I was basing my decision solely on the welfare of my child. When I thought about how many surgeries he had in store for him, and how painful some of his defects were, I became physically ill at the thought of forcing a helpless little baby into that situation. It was then I realized that my only reason for continuing my pregnancy was purely selfish. I wanted my baby. I wanted to hold him for however long he was breathing. I wanted to give him a bath and sing to him and do all the things I had done for his big sister. But we realized that we had to let him go in peace.

We had two days to make this decision. The local Catholic hospital would not consider our son’s defects as incompatible with life and therefore would not allow an early induction. As I said, there was a small chance he could live, with extensive intervention. Our state does not allow abortion after 24 weeks and the only doctor willing to perform the procedure was leaving town for Christmas. He would not be back until after the 24 week mark. A secret abortion, paid for in cash, was our only option. We went to the doctor’s office after hours and had our baby’s heart injected with potassium chloride. He died quickly with relatively little pain and we were able to show up at the hospital and labor and be treated as grieving parents instead of criminals. I was able to hold my son and get his footprints, which would not have happened at an abortion clinic.

This was the hardest, most heart wrenching decision I have ever had to make. I live daily with the pain of losing my son. It is made worse by the continuous bombardment of stories in the media about people that will never have to make this choice who want to restrict the options even further.

If you are completely against abortion I want you to look a mother in the eye who has just been given the news we got and tell her that she is on her own. I want you to tell her that you care more about the fact that her baby’s heart is beating than whether or not he will be in pain. I want you to say to her that not only will you not help her pay for the hundreds of thousands in medical bills; you will also not provide respite care for her when she is sick and unable to care for an unresponsive infant.

If you think you can write restrictive laws that don’t cause families in our situation such anguish, you are wrong. Abortion is not a simple right or wrong issue. You can allow abortion services to all, or you can deny them to all. And if you are on the side of denying them to all, I’d like to ask you – how many special needs children have you adopted or supported? How many times have you voted to increase Medicaid, Social Security disability, or funding for agencies that help families with disabled children?

Until you are willing to provide for every woman in trouble, every unwanted child, and every ill child, you have no right to say what I or anyone else can do with their body.

12 comments:

  1. I am so horrified by what I have read of late with all that is going on in your country (I'm in Australia). I think this letter is brilliant and hopefully someone takes notice. I am just so sorry this is your story. Having to make "decisions" like this in pregnancy is something I hope I never have to endure. Most people couldn't even come close to imagining your heartbreak.
    Good luck with being heard on this desperately important issue, I wish you all the best.
    Sally
    xo

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  2. great letter, you are inspiring me to write in as well. I have said before that I am so grateful to have lived in the liberal state of NY when we were faced with choice of termination for a fatal prenatal diagnosis. The fact that this already impossible situation was made so much worse for you is sickening.
    Aiden is very proud of you for doing this.

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  3. What an amazing letter. I don't know how anyone could read this letter and think denying women reproductive rights and choices could even be an option.

    Proud to support you. So very sad you have had to endure this and not have your sweet boy with you.

    xo

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  4. Thank you for the link to the planned parenthood petition, and thank you even more for being willing to write and send this letter. It is perfect. So many times abortion rights activists can pose hypotheticals as examples to argue that the situation isn't right or wrong, but the real stories are so poignant.

    Could you get your dr in trouble though for the help he provided in secret? I could see a nasty congressman insisting on following that up as a criminal investigation.

    love, inB

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  5. This is such an important issue and one which you are very right about. I'm so glad you are sending this letter xxxx

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  6. inB - I've worried about that too. The doctor that performed the injection literally risked his life to give my family some compassion (there are no late term abortion clinics here because two doctors have been killed here). He didn't do anything illegal so he couldn't lose his license, but I would not betray his compassion with an investigation. If asked, I plan to lie my ass off and say I went out of town and "can't remember" the name of the doctor. Thanks for bringing that up, though - it highlights how very wrong this whole situation is and is one of the things I would really like to change.

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  7. An amazing letter, I hope that it will be read and give some of these politicians pause. I don't think people understand just how complex the issues are. x

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  8. Perfect. Thank you for sharing, with us, and with our politicians.

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  9. A stunning, stunning letter. Thank you for sharing it. x

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  10. Great letter. Already signed the petition.

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  11. Thank you for being so strong & sharing your story to advocate for the rights of so many. I'm so sorry that you had to face such an unimaginable situation with so little support & resources available. You are incredibly inspiring! Thank you for speaking out & letting your story and voice be heard!

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  12. Broken heart by someone such bad thing which happen in life,very sad time when it happen.

    Broken Heart Needs Repair

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