Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft Blocking Missourians' Constitutional Rights

An Op Ed I wrote is in the St. Louis Post Dispatch today, discussing Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s unconstitutional delays making it impossible for Missourian’s to gather enough signatures to put abortion on the ballot, and let people vote on the issue.

The extreme abortion bill (House Bill 126) becomes effective next week,. It bans abortion after eight weeks with no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, and certainly no exceptions for fetal anomalies like Grace’s. It’s utterly outrageous, and transparently shows that they want to control pregnant people, and want this to go to the Supreme Court.

I don’t know if I can express how hard it has been to watch our rights eroding around us after having our own abortion. We feel so strongly that we made the right decision for our desperately wanted daughter. Yet our lawmakers don’t care.

Jim and I repeatedly have testified both via correspondence and in person against bans like this, and our lawmakers don’t listen. They passed it anyway, despite us telling them what a horrible bill it is and how it’d hurt babies like Grace Pearl.

So we turned to the constitutional process next: Governor Parsons signing the bill into the law wasn’t the end: Missouri’s Constitution guarantees citizens the right to stop a new law from taking effect through the referendum process — a vote of the people. On May 28, the referendum process began. Under the Missouri Constitution, we should have had 90 days to collect 100,000 signatures in six different congressional districts. That isn’t what happened. Why? Because Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft chose to abuse the power of his office and join the race to ban safe, legal abortion in our state.

It is utterly unacceptable that Ashcroft is using his position to block the will of the people. His behavior is outrageous, manipulative and unconstitutional. Missourians deserve better, no matter where they stand on abortion. This is about protecting our constitutional rights.

You can read the full Op Ed here:

Robin Utz: Ashcroft's delay tactics defy Missourians' right to challenge abortion law

My husband Jim and I have been married for nine years, and we have wanted a baby more than anything. After four years of trying to conceive, including two rounds of in-vitro fertilization, three embryo transfers, a miscarriage and looking extensively into adoption, we finally got pregnant with our daughter, Grace Pearl.

Welcome Moth Radio Hour Listeners! The Latest - Part 1

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It was an honor and utter privilege to be able to share Grace’s story as part of The Moth Mainstage with the Wilbur Theater audience in Boston last October. This week, my story is featured on Moth Radio Hour as part of the “A Brave Front” episode. You can listen here.

You can also find local airtimes here.


A lot has changed since I shared my story back in October, both for us personally with the birth of our daughter Hannah in February (!!!), and nationally. In terms of having and starting life with Hannah, it is everything we hoped it’d be and more. I’ll be sharing much more on that this week (so please subscribe/follow me on social media - links at the upper corner of this page)!


At the same time, later term abortion is discussed by the president and policy makers far more than it used to be, and in ways that are alarming, callous, judgmental and utterly untrue (for instance, infanticide isn’t actually a thing). It’s been horrible to see what people say and believe about people like me. It makes me more committed than ever to telling my story.


Add to that… I live in Missouri. Where an 8 week abortion ban without exceptions for rape or incest, much less fetal anomalies, will be taking effect on August 28, 2019. I was unable to testify in person against these bills due to being home with Hannah, but I sent in my written testimony, and Jim testified in person, as did other patient advocates that have suffered similar circumstances. Once again, the legislators didn’t care, and acted dismissively towards us.


And now there is the very real threat that the only remaining abortion clinic in the state of Missouri will close at the end of this week. This has happened because the Department of Public Health has become politicized and weaponized and has different, ever-changing requirements for Planned Parenthood that don’t match those of other health facilities. It’s terrifying that we’re allowing what should be a fair and neutral department become political. Should the clinic close, women will die and babies like Grace will suffer.


It is a uniquely awful situation to look at my 4 month old daughter and worry about if she’ll be able to legally access reproductive health care in the future. To feel like I can’t just soak up every second with her because the hits just keep on coming without legislator regard for the real impacts on lives like mine, or Grace’s (who would have 100% suffered had I been forced to continue the pregnancy) or Hannah’s.


I wish they could let me grieve Grace and enjoy the thrill of Hannah in peace. This is what my life is actually like… not how they portray it. It’s awful to hear those that represent us mangle our stories so willfully and so inaccurately when they haven’t walked in our shoes, and show no interest in understanding how it feels, even when we are literally next to them, sharing anyway.


If you are able to help us in the state of Missouri fight against this ban and our potential clinic closure, please consider the following:

Stay Up to Date and Spread Awareness

  • Subscribe to my updates! This is a long fight, but we cannot stop - women will absolutely suffer, and the unborn like Grace as well. We deserve more.

    You can find me on Twitter here, and Facebook here.

  • Please share stories like mine to bring awareness to these issues and what some of the real impacts will be, much less to those that are far, far less fortunate than I am. Parents Magazine just did an outstanding job covering the bigger picture of impacts.

  • Talk about abortion! I know, that sounds about as fun as getting a root canal, right? But that’s because we’ve let conservative voters and legislators tell us it’s not ok. The stigma around abortion is very deep, and talking about it as what it is (necessary healthcare) helps fight that. You are welcome to use my story to facilitate this, demonstrating a reason that women get abortions, and I’m happy to talk with anyone about it as long as it is curious and respectful.

Call

Donate

  • Donate to the last health center providing safe, legal abortion in Missouri: ReproductiveHealthServices.org/give

  • Donate to support Planned Parenthood Advocates’ fight for Missourians’ sexual and reproductive health & rights — including safe, legal abortion: ppadvocates.org/donate

  • Donate to Representative Deb Lavender’s campaign for State Senate. Representative Lavender is running against Senator Andrew Koenig in 2020, who is one of the Missouri state senators who puts forward the most restrictive abortion bans year after year, and has sat next to me, playing with his pen and phone while I have testified about Grace and how bills like 6 week abortion bans would 100% make her suffer. He is a terrible lawmaker and representative, and Deb in contrast would bring with her a wealth of experience and a much needed pro-choice vote to the Senate. Donating to Deb’s campaign is a huge action you can take - in an increasingly red state, we need voices like hers more than ever.

  • Donate to It Starts Today - Missouri, a project where a single monthly donation is set up to fund every Democratic nominee for MO State Legislature. You can further select for your donation to go strictly pro-choice candidates. You don’t have to live in Missouri to do this.

Sign

  • Please sign this petition demanding the immediate resignation of director Dr. Randall W. Williams from Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services. Dr. Williams has proven himself to be a biased, politically motivated director with changing requirements and double standards, including a medically unnecessary, cruel and unethical pelvic exam 72 hours before an abortion (this has since been reversed, thus demonstrating how unnecessary demanding this was in the first place). People like Dr. Williams have no place in the Department of Health and Senior Services. If he is allowed to treat Planned Parenthood differently, what is to keep him from doing the same to other medical facilities for whatever reason he feels is appropriate?

  • Sign a petition demanding that Governor Parsons renew Planned Parenthood’s clinic license immediately here.

Thank you for listening, thank you for helping us fight, and thank you for caring so much about myself, Jim, Grace and Hannah. Our little family is better for having you as a part of it, helping us fight for what we so strongly feel is right.

Baby Hannah!

Baby Hannah!



BBC Newshour Interview on Missouri Abortion Ban - Listen Here

I posted a link to my BBC Newshour interview about Missouri’s 8 week abortion ban, noting it was at the 37:30 mark. It is now available to listen to directly here.

Please listen and share - it provides a great context on what the 8 week abortion ban means for Missourians and the overall goal of bans such as these.

Parents Magazine Covers Full Impact of Abortion Bans, Including Our Story

I have often said that Jim and I were lucky in the most heartbreaking experience of our lives: we had close access to excellent medical care, had good jobs, health insurance, and other elements of privilege protecting us. This article from Parents Magazine covers our story and how it will be impacted by the abortion bans here in Missouri, and likewise in Alabama, Georgia, etc., as well as how those far less fortunate than us will be affected. Please read and consider.

What New Abortion Laws Mean for Moms, Pregnant Women, and Women Who Want to Get Pregnant

Restrictive abortion laws in states across the South and Midwest threaten your right to choose. Here's what they mean for women considering parenthood. May 23, 2019 Robin Utz learned in November of 2016 that there was something wrong with her second-trimester pregnancy.

Missouri's Only Abortion Clinic Likely Closing Friday: What You Can Do NOW

This is not a drill.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region is the only abortion provider in the state of Missouri. Missouri’s health department is refusing to renew their license. By Friday, May 31, 2019, Missouri may be the only state in the country without an abortion provider.

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Why this matters to me

The compassionate doctors and staff at Planned Parenthood guided us through our consents (while reassuring us that while they were judgmental in language, they did not reflect how they, our doctors felt about us). They performed both steps of the 2 day abortion procedure, answered all of my questions and then some, gave me a list of grief counselors, resources for cremation and ash spreading if we so chose, referred me to the life-changingly wonderful Ending a Wanted Pregnancy website where I found endless support, and helped me get my cherished hand and foot prints of Grace Pearl. They were consummate professionals and showed us wonderful care as we faced the hardest and most terrible decision of our lives: ending our desperately wanted pregnancy.

It’s important that we fight to keep them open. All people deserve compassionate, fact-based, non-judgmental health care.

What you can do

  • Sign the petition.

  • Donate to Gateway Women's Access Fund to help Missouri women (who may now have the additional expense of leaving the state) access legal abortion services.  https://www.gwaf.org/donate

  • Donate to Patient Care at Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood, MO’s last abortion provider: ReproductiveHealthServices.org/give

  • Donate to advocacy to fight for safe, legal abortion in MO: ppmissouri.org/donate

  • Contact Governor Parson and let him know you feel about this: https://governor.mo.gov/

  • Contact the Missouri Health & Senior Services Director to let him know how you feel about this nonsense https://health.mo.gov/about/director.php

  • Go to the Rally to end abortion bans on Thursday, May 30th at 11:30 am. Details here and signup here.

  • Sign up for updates from Reproaction, a grassroots organization doing important, local work. https://reproaction.org/take-action

  • Missouri NARAL provides clinic escorts to help those accessing services get through the protesters who harass patients. Hope Clinic in Granite City, IL will absorb Missouri patients and protesters -- they'll need more help. Sign up to become an escort or legal observer (add in the comment box that you’d like to learn more about being an escort).

  • Attend a how-to happy hour on June 6 (I am one of the hosts)!

  • Dine out for Planned Parenthood on June 6: Info here

  • TALK ABOUT ABORTION. Use my story if you want! That’s why I share it - to help protect our rights, not let us lose them.

Missouri's Cruel New Abortion Ban & BBC Newshour

I am so outraged at the cruel, outrageous abortion bans being enacted in states like Georgia, Alabama, and very likely within the next day, here in Missouri.

I used to think that if people just knew my story, they’d learn and want to have more sensible abortion laws. Now I know that our representatives actually don’t care, and the goal is to make them as cruel as possible with the goal of getting them escalated up to the Supreme Court to have Roe v. Wade hopefully overturned.

I have a lot more thoughts on all of this, but for this moment: I was interviewed as part of BBC Newshour today on this, and you can hear my perspective here (start at the 37 minute, 30 second mark): LINK