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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Rights in the Balance

In recent years, the right to obtain a safe and legal abortion has been threatened by countless bills and laws restricting our access. While republicans haven't had any luck outlawing abortion, they have been successful and making it nearly impossible to obtain one. However, up until now, we could at least take comfort in knowing that if we were the victims of rape or incest OR we were carrying a severely disabled child, we had the option of interrupting the pregnancy.

This week alone, two shocking stories regarding states passing bills to restrict these types of abortions were released. The first, and probably most shocking, comes out of New Mexico. On Wednesday (1/23), a republican lawmaker introduced a bill that would make it a crime to terminate a pregnancy that was the result of rape. Yes, you read that correctly. This bill would make it illegal for a woman who was raped and became pregnant to terminate the pregnancy. And how could anyone ever criminalize a woman for doing such a thing? By saying that by terminating the pregnancy, she's tampering with evidence (I shit you not, people). How many things can you count in this bill that are SO wrong? Not only would it be awful for someone to force a woman who's been raped to carry her pregnancy to term...but then they're going to turn around and use the baby as evidence in a sexual assault case? No. Just no. I can't imagine how this would benefit anyone: mother or child.

The second story, which was released yesterday on BuzzFeed, says that several states are considering making it illegal for doctors to terminate pregnancies based on fetal anomaly. If Indiana passes the bill that was recently introduced there, terminating a pregnancy due to a fetal abnormality could land a doctor in prison for up to 8 years with a Class C felony on his record. There are so many things wrong with this. First of all, the idea of a couple deciding to make a baby, only to be devastated to find out that their child is suffering, or will not live a high quality life if they's heart wrenching  The only thing worse that I can imagine is a family not being able to make the decision to save their child from suffering, if they wish to do so. Carrying a child to term, only to watch them suffer and/or die once they leave the comfort of your womb could be enough to make a woman (a mother) crumble into nothing. It could certainly be equally detrimental to the father, and any other living children that the couple may have. Aside from the emotional damage that this could do to a family, is anyone considering the financial distress it could cause? Just because a family is well off enough to support a healthy child does not mean that they will be able to financially support a special needs child (or their funeral). In a matter of two weeks in the summer of 2012, my 2 year old son ran up medical bills near $40,000. What in the world could cost so much? Ten days in the hospital, along with blood tests, MRI's,  ultrasounds, antibiotics, and the eventual draining for AN INFECTED LYMPH NODE! I can't imagine the financial stress that supporting a disabled or terminally ill child could cause to a family. Unfortunately, in today's economy, we have to think about these things.

It is safe to assume that getting an abortion will not be an easy process anytime soon. It seems that lawmakers are trying their hardest to throw as many roadblocks in the way as they can...and they've been reasonably successful in doing so. But that doesn't mean that our fight is over. We have to keep fighting for women. We have to keep fighting for our daughters and grand daughters, our future unborn children who may be broken and suffering, for the right to say what happens to our own bodies. We have to keep fighting, and in order to do that, we have to keep talking.

Keep talking. Keep fighting. Let your local lawmakers know that this is unacceptable.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

WARNING: Very Graphic, May Include Triggers

Early in 2011, I posted about Kermit Gosnell. He was charged with with the deaths of seven infants and 1 woman. Most pro-lifers will argue that every single doctor who provides abortions should face the same charges. However, this case is so far beyond a man who provides abortion services. A new 20 minute documentary highlights exactly what happened behind closed doors in this inner city house of horrors.

Since Roe v. Wade was passed, woman have had access (though often difficult to obtain) to safe, legal abortions. And by "safe", I mean...abortions who are provided by a licensed doctor, in a clean setting, with sterile instruments. The procedures can be done in a number of ways which are often done before the baby has the brain waves/nervous system to make it capable of feeling pain. And once the brain and nervous system has developed to such a point, measures are taken to make the procedure as safe as possible for the baby.

I can only imagine that what Kermit Gosnell did was comparable to back alley abortionists who were in it for nothing more than a quick buck. The Gosnell clinic was located in Philadelphia, in a lower-class neighborhood. Gosnell's "typical" clientele has been described by some as "lower-class", "poor", "minorities", or "under-educated" women. And while it's often true that women who find themselves in desperate situations such as having no money and needing an abortion, will take a risk. I don't think any one of the women who went to Gosnell ever imagined that they would have to be wary of such an experience.

One woman (former patient) who appeared in the documentary describes an experience of seeing women who looked half dead (from being given heavy drugs) sitting in the waiting room, blood spattered walls and floors, blood crusted recliners, and a forceful doctor who refused to let her up off the bed when she changed her mind about the abortion. Instead, he put her to sleep and performed the procedure anyway. She is no longer able to have children.

A clinic worker (who was in no way qualified to do anything other than maybe answer phones and make appointments) snapped cell phone pictures of two of the babies that Gosnell "aborted" (And by "aborted", I mean delivered alive at full term, shoved scissors into the base of their skulls and then "snipped" their spinal cords...a technique that he called "snipping"). These pictures are included in the documentary and are VERY graphic. 

Through the years, two women's deaths were reported to the health department, along with a woman who suffered perforated uterus...but no investigation was done--with any of them. The last time an employee from the Department of Health physically visited the clinic? 1993. Not only is Gosnell and his staff at fault, the city should be held accountable as well, or at least the Department of Health.

It's also interesting to note that Gosnell had one exclusive procedure room that he used for white women. It was reportedly cleaner and nicer than the others, because as he put it "That's the way of the world. Young white women are more likely to tell". The whole ordeal is despicable.

This man was not in the business to help women. Nor was he concerned about providing mercy to babies who were suffering. This man would do any abortion, at any time through the pregnancy, for ANY reason. If you were due the day BEFORE you went to him, he would still provide his "services". The only thing that mattered was the money.

Today, on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it's so important to remember that if we lose this right to do what we wish with our bodies, there is a very real possibility that this "quality" of care could become the norm for women who need abortion services. These kinds of scary stories are the kind of thing that people heard before we had the legal right to choose. Do we really want to go back to seeing this type of operation regularly? Making abortion illegal won't stop it. But more people will die.

You can watch the documentary, 3801 Lancaster here. But PLEASE be advised that this video is extremely graphic. I would not recommend it for post abortive women, queasy individuals, rape victims, or women who have experienced any kind of pregnancy/infant/child loss. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

40th Anniversary of Roe vs Wade

40 years after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of women's rights, there have been plenty of setbacks. Doctors who are legally providing abortions have been murdered in cold blood by people who claim to value and respect life. The offices of these doctors have been bombed. Women who seek these services have been harassed relentlessly. Aside from cleaner conditions and the legal red tape, the passing of Roe vs Wade actually seems to have made the task of seeking an abortion even harder. Before abortion was legal, the biggest concern was the health risk posed by having the procedure done by someone who may or may not be experienced and in less than sterile conditions, at that. Now, of course, women can access abortions (if they have the monetary means to pay for the procedure and possible traveling involved for many women) that are legal and safe, without the fear of legal prosecution. But at what emotional cost?

Many women describe feeling like a criminal while trying to obtain their legal abortion. At most clinics, women are subjected to things like metal detectors and armed security guards. Women have shared stories online of having protesters screaming in their faces as they walk into clinics, or blocking their cars in the clinic driveways. Clinic workers constantly deal with their personal information being distributed publicly. And abortionists themselves have resorted to all sorts of precautions, including wearing bullet proof vests and driving armored vehicles. All of these precautions are necessary for a legal, medical procedure. All of these barriers are broken because of a legal, medical procedure. And what's being done? Hardly anything. And usually nothing preventative.

So how much good has Roe vs. Wade done? Of course women who would have otherwise died in filthy conditions have been able to have a safe abortion. But how healthy is it for a woman to be emotionally tormented when being exposed to these extremists? If the decision is made to make (and keep) abortion legal, the decision should also be made to protect the women who are accessing this legal option.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tonight, Just Pray.

Back when all the possible republican candidates were hashing it out for the coveted role of "THE republican candidate", I came across a story while doing my typical research and reading on abortion and the like. The article was called, Rick Santorum: Meet My Son. The article was written by writer Emily Rapp. If you remember, Rick Santorum is a passionate pro-lifer, despite the fact that his own wife had to have an induction to terminate a pregnancy to save her own life back in 1996. Emily's article describes the gut wrenching process of having to watch her son, Ronan, die a slow and awful death due to Tay-Sachs. While pregnant, Emily underwent prenatal testing, but the tests came back negative for Tay-Sachs. In the incredibly honest article, Emily says that had she known that her son had Tay-Sachs, she would have terminated her pregnancy. Not because she only wanted a "perfect" child, but because she was already so in love with her unborn child that the idea of allowing him or her to suffer was unbearable. You can read more about Tay-Sachs here. Right now, Ronan is blind, paralyzed, and growing less responsive by the day.

(Please, go and read the article. But have a box of tissues handy.)

The point of that introduction was to say this:

Ronan is in his final stages of life, as we speak. They now have him on IV fluids for hydration and comfort care, but right now, he is at the end of the line.

I found out that Ronan's condition had deteriorated a couple of days ago via Emily's facebook page. She posted a status that said:

"Thanks for all the positive thoughts, folks, and for thinking of Ronan. I really appreciate it. Rones is taking fluids and meds through an ng tube (through his nose) for comfort care and hydration because he can no longer swallow and had a day of extreme respiratory distress. It was a terrible decision to make but felt like the right one. He is able to taste small bits of food. His body is slowing down. He is never without people who love him. xo"

As a mother, I can't imagine what Emily is going through. Having to watch your child suffer and deteriorate over a period of a few years would be unbearable, but she's done it, because her first priority is Ronan. I have no idea if she is relieved, for his sake, that they are at the end of the line, or if this is the worst time of her life..or both. But I think it's safe to say that regardless, she needs all the prayers she can get. And Ronan certainly needs all the prayers that he can get. Prayers for a comfortable passing for Ronan, prayers for healing for Emily, prayers for strength for the whole family.

For a moment tonight, please push aside your thoughts on abortion...whether or not you think that Emily is wrong (or not) for wishing she had known about Ronan's condition so that she could have ended his suffering. Tonight, just pray for them.

Friday, January 11, 2013

To Be or Not to Be...Pro-choice

Anytime there is mention of the term "pro-life" or "pro-choice", people immediately have a strong reaction. Some people get uncomfortable. Some people jump at the chance to defend their stance. Others jump to vilify your's.

In a world of black and white issues, pro-life and pro-choice are simple: You're either against abortion or you're for it. But the problem with that reasoning is that our world is never that simple. The truth is, 99% of the time, life is one big gray area. Every situation has it's own issues, it's own difficulties. No two cases are the same. So how does one decide whether they are pro-life or pro-choice?

Many people are raised in a pro-life household (often due to religion). And therefore, those people often feel ashamed to consider themselves pro-choice. Some people are so saddened and angered by the idea of a woman having an abortion, that they don't take the time to consider what being pro-choice actually means. I was one of these people.

I was raised in a Christian household where sex before marriage was wrong, homosexuality was unforgivable, and abortion was an unspeakable act. I felt strongly that a woman who had an abortion was a "certain kind" of woman (or girl) who was irresponsible enough to get herself into a "situation". I also felt such sympathy for the unborn baby. The funny part is that I ended up realizing that I was not only pro-choice, but strongly pro-choice while doing research for a paper that was intended to discourage people from supporting the pro-choice side of the fence. However, the sympathy for the unborn child is still there. As a mother myself, I don't think that will ever go away. It is important to note that while I absolutely feel that abortion should be kept safe and legal, it is always a sad occurrence, in my opinion.

It was hard to realize that I was having second thoughts about my pro-life stance. I felt awful, like an accessory to murder. But then I realized...being pro-choice didn't make me pro-abortion. It didn't mean that the idea of abortion thrilled me. After all, I was pregnant during three times in my life when plenty of women would have considered (or even gone through with) abortion. The first time, I was only 4 months into marriage, without resources, and completely unprepared to be a parent. The second, I went through a separation (almost divorce). And the third time, I was on birth control and not planning on another child for at LEAST a few years. I could have terminated any of those pregnancies. But I made the CHOICE to carry them, to have them, to love them. I had a choice to do that, and I was grateful for it. Women in China don't have that choice (aside from the first time). They are forced to abort. And we deem that as "wrong". So how can we see forcing a woman who can't afford a child, who's child is suffering and will certainly die, or who will die herself if she carries her pregnancy, to carry a pregnancy to term? How do we justify that?

There are plenty of circumstances that most people don't think about when they deem themselves pro-life. For example, what would these people do if they were faced with an ectopic pregnancy? I've heard lots of pro-life people refer to the removal of an ectopic pregnancy as a miscarriage. Not so. In rare cases, women (and their babies) have been known to survive an ectopic pregnancy. So, when a woman consents to having it removed (if the fetus is still alive), she is making the decision to terminate the pregnancy. My own mother made this decision at one point in her life. Because in most cases, the baby will die, and the mother can as well...people like to refer to this "removal" as a miscarriage, but in reality, unless the fetus has already died, it is in fact an abortion. It is, however, considered a "medically necessary" termination (obviously).

What about women who purposely get pregnant, only to find out that something awful is wrong with their child? That their child is suffering? That their child won't live outside the womb for more than a few torturous minutes? If they make the decision to have an abortion...are they evil? I don't think so. Especially if there are other children involved, or the mother's life is in danger, or the baby is suffering in-utero. This is a major decision that requires serious contemplation of many factors. Of course, if they choose to carry the pregnancy as far as they can in order to meet their child and resolve the idea of never-ending "what-ifs", they are more than entitled to do so. That's the beauty of it--it's their CHOICE.

I know a few girls who were raped. If they had become pregnant as a result, I can absolutely understand why they would choose to terminate. Likewise, I would understand if they chose to carry, as well. Again...a CHOICE.

The bottom line is this: No one likes the idea of a dead baby. No one gets the warm and fuzzies from thinking about it. No one aspires to abort. But life happens. It's as frustratingly simple as that. Baby making isn't a perfect science. Life isn't a walk in the park. I wouldn't want my choice to carry a pregnant to term to be taken away. And I wouldn't want the choice to end a pregnancy taken away for me, my daughter, or for other women. Because sometimes life happens and it isn't pretty. Sometimes it's just a mess. And depending on what you are capable of, as a woman (or partner), you deserve to make the choice yourself. Am I against putting limitations on this choice? Nope. I do not believe a woman should be able to decide at 35 weeks pregnant that she just doesn't want to be a mother. I believe that this decision is one of MONUMENTAL responsibility and should be treated as such.  Whether it's an early abortion or a late term abortion, it should be given an immense amount of thought...because it's something that you have to live with for the rest of your life. And despite the fact that you may choose to terminate your pregnancy, this is the first decision that you will make as a mother. You will ultimately decide if your child will suffer or thrive, if you can support a child, if you feel comfortable letting someone else have your will decide, for you...and for your child.

So the next time someone asks you if you're pro-life or pro-choice, give it a little thought before you answer. You may surprise yourself.