My Second Time Testifying in Jefferson City: About the Bills and What YOU Can Do

 Dana (right) and myself at the Missouri State Capital in Jefferson City, MO

Dana (right) and myself at the Missouri State Capital in Jefferson City, MO

I went to Jefferson City with my very good friend Dana today so we could testify to the Senate Families, Children and Seniors COmmittee about Senate Bill 1 (SB-1) and Senate BIll 6 (SB-6).

You can read about the bills (including full text) below, but the summary of each is as follows:

  • SB-1 (link) does a variety of things, but tries to circumvent Judge Howard Sachs' injunction based on on the Whole Women's Health v Hellerstedt ruling in the Supreme Court, noting that based on that ruling, Missouri's one abortion facility in the entire state constituted an unconstitutional burden on women seeking this reproductive health treatment, in addition to overly lofty requirements for abortion-providing facilities.
  • SB-6 (link) would remove St. Louis's ruling that organizations and companies cannot discriminate women for things like using contraception, being pregnant or getting an abortion based on moral or religious beliefs. 

I testified against SB-1 to note that while we were lucky we lived in St. Louis when we learned about Grace Pearl's diagnosis, had we lived further away, had children we had to find care for, had jobs that were not gracious in their flexibility with our sudden scheduling needs or couldn't afford the thousands of dollars necessary at such short notice (abortions are not covered by insurance in Missouri except for rare exceptions), we couldn't have terminated by the deadline of 21 weeks, 6 days (we terminated at 21 days, 5 days as it was). Such limitations would have absolutely hurt Grace, the unborn baby the bill is purporting to protect. Our story proves these bills need to be more thoughtful, considered and inclusive. 

You can read my full testimony for SB-1 (which I used to paraphrase from, and provided to the Senate Committee) here.

I testified against SB-6 noting that I should not be able to be discriminated against for terminating my pregnancy, as it's not appropriate to make assumptions as to why women choose to do this. We terminated our pregnancy out of love and concern, and feeling strongly that it to not do so was absolutely cruel. We also noted that while this is being proposed in defense of organizations that don't want to hire women that use contraception, are pregnant or have terminated a pregnancy (note: this is inclusive of nearly every single state a woman of reproductive age can exist in), the religious people in our lives hold beliefs that cannot be so simply assumed or compartmentalized, and it's inappropriate to try to do so to allow organizations to practice discrimination. Many of the people these organizations would be speaking on behalf of don't even agree with them. 

You can read my full testimony for SB-6 (which I used to paraphrase from, and provided to the Senate Committee) here.

In both testimonies I told the story of Grace Pearl, that we felt that it was the only humane, loving, moral choice we could possibly make, and that we and women like us deserve to be able to make that choice without hurdles, timelines or discrimination. I have two friends that had to do this just last week. It will continue to happen, and that is a reality that needs to be included in Missouri's bills and laws. 

I will post more very soon talking about how the day felt as a whole, but for now, we have urgent work to do: 

CALL, CALL, CALL!!

  • Call your state senator! To find out who that is, use this link. From there you can get the phone number. Tell them that you oppose Senate Bills 1, 5 and 6 because they are not based on medical necessity and are not making Missouri women or the unborn any safer, and that Missouri women deserve intelligent, inclusive bills that do not discriminate against them or make it more difficult for them to obtain constitutionally protected reproductive health medical care. This is critical for right now - the bill is still in the Senate and if we make our voices heard, we can make a real difference!
  • Call Governor Greitens! His number is (573) 751-3222, or you can text him via Resistbot if you're a Missouri constituent by noting you want to send to governor (you may have to unlock this level, but may not! Can anyone confirm?) Did you know you can send faxes from Resistbot from your Facebook Messenger? It's awesome - so much easier for typing than using my phone! You can use the same messaging as up above for the senators. 
  • Call you state representative! You can find out who that is here. Tell them that you oppose all new bills restricting reproductive rights as they are not considered, inclusive of all scenarios that prompt a woman to get an abortion, are unconstitutional as they apply undue burden, and are not actually pro-life. You can see the list of bills the are reviewing tomorrow (it's uncertain which ones they'll hear, but you can bet it'll be the ones that are AGAINST reproductive rights) here if you want to to review and mention them. 

Have any questions? Feel free to use the contact me page to send me a note!

 Missouri's Capital building in Jefferson City, Missouri

Missouri's Capital building in Jefferson City, Missouri

 I jumped into Dana's selfie with the Capital building. We both were running on little sleep, no lunch, a 2.5 hour drive (so far) and a day of hearing bills and testimony. I just couldn't stop myself!

I jumped into Dana's selfie with the Capital building. We both were running on little sleep, no lunch, a 2.5 hour drive (so far) and a day of hearing bills and testimony. I just couldn't stop myself!

 

 

 

Missouri Governor Greitens's Dangerous and Expensive Abortion Special Session

Missouri Governor Greitens announced on June 7th that he is calling a special session to discuss an anti-discrimination bill and to bypass the constitutionally protected right to an abortion reiterated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt decision.

 Governor Greitens. AP.

Governor Greitens. AP.

This is unsettling in a number of ways:

  • Associated costs. There has already been one special session in Missouri this year and it cost taxpayors $66,000 for just a week, and that's with legislators only coming in on the days that there were votes. With it averaging $20,000 a day to have a special session, is this the best use of taxpayer dollars? The GOP-led legislature didn't approve a proposal which would have nullified the anti-discrimination bill, so it seems to be simply politically motivated instead of based in practicality, such as a legitimate emergency issue, especially since Governor Greitens is holding three campaign-like rallies before the special session to garner support for his initiatives.
  • This is not being pro-life. In a video message shared on Twitter on Wednesday, Greitens declares himself to be “pro-life” and “proud to support life — the lives of mothers, their children and the innocent unborn.” This hardly feels like it's about the health of women or fetuses as he purports - these measures will make it harder for women to get access to the healthcare that they need. I wonder what Governor Greitens would say to me, who terminated my pregnancy to protect Grace from pain and harm, and to protect my own health? If he's truly pro-life, he'd want to ensure women can access health care as they need it, that fetuses that receive devastatingly awful diagnoses like Grace did can be treated with care and compassion, and that women cannot be discriminated against for doing so. 
  • Greitens's initiatives are not common sense: It's hard not to just see Governor Greitens as another politician beholden to absolute pro-life donors. I would love to be wrong about that feeling, but the changes that Greitens wants to make (remove anti-discriminatory protections and go around a measure that insists women have access to health care facilities that provide abortions) are not common sense. Should I not get a job because I terminated my pregnancy after learning Grace had a fatal fetal anomaly? Should I not be able to get reproductive health care because I live in Joplin or Springfield? As Judge Sachs said in his decision to file an injunction, women's health is actually harmed more than hurt by laws that limit access to abortion-providing health care facilities. If Greitens were holding a special session to review a practical, inclusive, common sense initiative to find compromise between the parties, I'd be in full support of that. As it is, he wants to hold an expensive special session to endanger Missouri's women and, in our case, hurt our daughter and us for sparing her an inevitable and painful death.
 Missouri State Capitol

Missouri State Capitol

I'm pretty discouraged to see this happening. I want to trust our politicians to truly do what's best for their constituents, not instead leaving their constituents feeling helpless, indignant and dismissed. Where is the compromise and practicality, and respect for our tax dollars?

After what we went through, I want to see our state laws become more inclusive to include situations like ours; the very real outcome of not doing so is babies like Grace being forced to be born into immense pain and death. But instead Governor Greitens appears to be insistent on instead pushing through dangerous and harmful initiatives that diminish Missouri's women down to assumptions and hypotheticals, and offer no compassion. 

 

If you would like to call Governor Greitens' office to express your concern and dissatisfaction with him calling a special session, costing tax payers $20,000 a day, for political reasons instead of emergency issues, his office number is (573) 751-3222

It is also helpful to call your representative; you can find out who yours is and their contact information here: link

Action Needed: New York's RHA Needs a Vote. How You Can Help.

This last presidential election was the most divisive in my lifetime, and one of the hot topics was abortion. I vividly remember watching the third debate, and wondering why someone would need a late term abortion, but also assuming that surely it would not happen that late in any statistically material way because someone just changed their mind about their pregnancy. I wanted to learn more.

I ask you to consider me, and women like me who are the faces of abortion statistics. We are slowly inching out from the shadows, as angry as we are devastated. Only 1.3 percent of abortions happen after 22 weeks, but each of us has a unique story.
— Erika A. Christensen

Less than a week after the debate I stumbled onto this story in Jezebel, which consumed my attention and brought me to tears. I occasionally rubbed my growing belly to reassure myself that things were still going well in my pregnancy. Little did I know then, Donald Trump would be elected on November 9, and we would learn that Grace was not viable on November 17th. The loss of Grace, and the governmental threats to my reproductive rights are impossible to exact from one another. My feelings about abortion weren't so clear before that. But now that I understood what a late term abortion looked like, and was about to experience one myself, I found myself grieving and furious with not just the awful hand that had been dealt to Grace and ourselves, but also the one that the government was handing us: a judgmental and intentionally painful process that was beyond insulting given our circumstances.

By coincidence I later virtually met the writer of the Jezebel article, and enthusiastically shared that her story was key in motivating me to share mine. And now again, Erika is stunning me with her eloquence, vulnerability and exceptional ability to unpack the complicated and articulate a messy emotional and legal situation in poignant and relatable ways. 

To shine a light on New York's Reproductive Health Act (RHA) S2796 bill, Erica wrote this excellent article in Rewire (later discussed in Jezebel as well). I could have pulled quote after quote from Erica's words, as they resonated so strongly with me:

Still in shock over this tragic turn of events, I lay on the table, looking up at the ceiling. My internal questions played like a tape over and over in my mind: Why am I here? Did New York expect me to carry this baby to term, only to watch him suffer and die?

Since then, I’ve tried to answer that second question. The only answer I’ve come up with is: yes.
— Erika A. Christensen

The Reproductive Health Act (RHA), S2796, which Christensen is advocating, does three things: (1) It takes abortion out of the penal code and puts into public health law; (2) it allows for abortions after 24 weeks in cases of non-viability, and in cases where either the life or health of the woman is at risk; and (3) it allows for advanced practice clinicians (APCs) to administer abortion care within their scope of practice. 

As Christensen points out, "The Roe decision hinged on the notion of viability, only allowing states to limit abortion access after a fetus was viable, which is generally considered around 24 weeks. In our case, our baby would never be viable". While I agree with all of the things the bill does, the bill allowing for abortions after 24 weeks in cases of non-viability is sufficient for me to believe this bill is incredibly important, and it's critical that it be heard by the New York State Senate.

If you feel like I do (that this bill is a common sense approach to making abortion laws in the state of New York more accurate, inclusive of all needs and thus pro-life, and common sense), here's what you can do, regardless of where you are:

If you're in New York:

The end of the legislative session on June 21. It is crucial that pressure is put on not only Sens. Flanagan and Hannon, but all of the senators. With that, here are four steps:

  1. Identify your district and senator here.
  2. Write/call your senator and express your support for the bill, and more importantly, for a vote on the bill.
  3. Get vocal on social media (RHAVote.com).
  4. Focus on the whole state. Got a friend in the Hudson Valley? Their senator is on the fence. Know someone out on Long Island? That’s where Flanagan and Hannon’s districts are.

Not in New York? Share, share, share! Please share this with your friends and family and ask those in New York to be engaged. Every little bit counts and makes a difference, and you never know when the person impacted could be your sister, daughter, friend, or you. 

You can find the homepage for the RHA here, and read Erika's piece in Rewire here: 

New York Forces Women Like Me to Carry Nonviable Pregnancies to Term - Rewire

New Yorkers, we need to act quickly: There's a bill making its way through the state legislature that can help people like me, who are the faces of abortion statistics, to access the care we need in our home state.

6 Months After Losing Grace: Jim Shares the Story (and Playlist) of Our Dance Party to Say Goodbye

Today is the 6 month anniversary of Jim and myself saying goodbye to Grace. In honor of that, Jim has written his first blog post to share what we did the night before the procedure to say goodbye to her. We did so in a way that felt perfect to us, and he describes it below in a way that only he can:

A Dance Party for Grace Pearl

Robin and I received the news of our daughter Grace Pearl's Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney Disease on Thursday, November 17 at approximately 1:45PM at the 21 week anatomy scan. The following days and nights were filled with grief, numbness and disbelief, all while looking for anything to distract or lighten our hearts. The previous six months had been spent thinking of what life was going to be like with our daughter, the endless opportunities and things we as parents were looking forward to sharing and experiencing with her. The reality now was that future together was going to be much shorter.

While finishing dinner at home on Tuesday, November 22, Robin (thankfully) brought up that this was our last night together with Grace. Robin gently asked if there anything I wanted to do or say to Grace before we said our final goodbye to her the next morning. The reality hit that instead of the lifetime of memories with Grace we anticipated we were getting a few more hours before the chance for new memories with her would be over. 

When faced with this reality the only thing that made sense for this situation was music. The love and appreciation of music has helped me more in life than anything else, making the great times more festive while being the greatest comforter during the hard times. So with our last few hours with Grace slipping away, the thing I wanted to do most with her was share music - something I had probably looked forward to doing with her more than anything else.  

I realized I wouldn't get the chance to spend an evening with Grace playing Public Enemy albums and explain how I learned more about American Black History from these records than I did in 17 years of public and private education. I wasn't getting the chance to spend a weekend afternoon playing her albums from my favorite early 90s Olympia, WA and Washington D.C. bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Slant 6. Bands who called out the patriarchy and challenged "liberated" men to do better while making some of the most exciting and memorable music that still sounds as important as it did 25+ years ago. I wasn't going to get the chance to go on a road trip with Grace and play Willie Nelson, Ornette Coleman, Stevie Wonder and John Fogerty albums for her, and tell her why I thought that there should be a "musical" Mt. Rushmore in America with their four faces on it celebrating these true American geniuses.

While it would've been easy (and earned) to put together a playlist that was filled with somber and serious music for these last hours together, I didn't want Grace's last hours to be about sadness,;we’d already spent the past four days fighting sadness. Instead of going for the Joy Division, Diamond Galas and Black Heart Procession records (which I figured I would be sharing with her during Grace's potentially morose teenage years), I wanted us three to celebrate the amazing time we did get to have with each other. The songs and artists chosen are ones that Robin and/or I loved and thought that our little girl would enjoy. The emphasis was songs that we hoped our little girl would gravitate to, simple pop songs that could be used as a foundation to discover her own musical taste and path in life. 

In rushing to put together this playlist that night I forgot a few songs that meant the world to me. Songs like Lulu “To Sir With Love”, Linda Ronstadt “You’re No Good” and The Ronettes “Be My Baby” were just a few of the major songs that were missed unfortunately.

The below are the songs we played on shuffle that evening. We danced for over an hour in our living room, late at night with only candles lighting our dance floor. Robin gently patted along to the rhythm on her baby bump and we replaced lyrics in several songs to be Grace Pearl. Some of the songs were key selections from our wedding, some we knew would be irresistible to a little girl, and lastly I wanted to make sure that she got to experience three songs with my favorite drummer all time Al Jackson Jr. behind the drums.

Robin had been told to bring headphones with her to the procedure the next day, for reasons we didn't really stop to think about while we fumbled through our shock and grief. She ended up not being put under the the procedure, and was advised to listen to music while Grace left us. She put on this playlist, and remembers listening to Born To Run, Superstitious, Let's Spend the Night Together and Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay. It brought both of us comfort to think that Grace's last moments were spent listening to music through her mother's body.

You can listen to the playlist here, and see the list of songs below:

 

Grace's Dance Party Playlist

The Beach Boys - God Only Knows

The Beatles - Twist And Shout

The Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive

Blondie - Atomic

Chuck Berry - You Never Can Tell

Sam Cooke - Nothing Can Change This Love

The Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes

Earth, Wind & Fire – September

Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way

The Four Tops - I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up, Part 1(Single Version)

Al Green - I'm Still In Love With You

Al Green - Let's Stay Together 

The Hollies - Bus Stop

Michael Jackson - Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (Single Version)

The Jackson 5 - ABC

KC & The Sunshine Band - Get Down Tonight (Single Version)

Kenny Loggins - Footloose

Little River Band - Lady

MFSB - T.S.O.P. (The Sound Of Philadelphia)

Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta - You're The One That I Want

The O'Jays - Love Train

Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay

The Rolling Stones - Let's Spend The Night Together

The Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run 

Warpaint - New Song

Stevie Wonder - I Was Made To Love Her

Stevie Wonder – Superstition

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

How We See Mother's Day, and How I Approached It

For most of my life, Mother's Day has been a nice day. My mom is amazing, as is my Mother In Law, and I've enjoyed celebrating them and looked forward to eventually being a mom myself. But 3 years ago it became less enjoyable:

4 years ago we had just started trying to have a child, and I was looking forward to the next year hopefully being either my first Mother's Day, or at least being pregnant.

3 years ago we had been trying for a year, and had just learned that we suffered from Infertility. I was optimistic that Assisted Reproductive Technology could help us conceive a child, but was disappointed that we had hit these bumps in the road.

2 years ago we had suffered a miscarriage at 9 weeks of pregnancy, and were upset on Mother's Day.

Last year we were optimistic because we had 2 embryos to attempt to get pregnant with, but also tired and sad: what we had hoped would be an easy process had turned into a long journey with far more downs than ups.

And this year, we're grieving the loss of Grace, who passed at nearly 6 months of pregnancy after we terminated for medical reason after learning she had a fatal disease, and the fact that we didn't get pregnant with our last embryo. We have no idea what we're going to do next.

A friend shared the following picture with me, which reminded me that I'm not the only one that has mixed feelings about Mother's Day, and finds it to be as sad as it is happy.

I really liked this, as it acknowledged that mothers and motherhood are complex, and it acknowledged those that don't find the day or experience to be as easy, carefree or joyous as society often likes to paint it. Any time we shine a light on what is 'real' vs just the surface, I like that. This isn't of course to say that there aren't many that love Mother's Day, and that mothers don't deserve to be celebrated; I enjoyed celebrating my mom and mother-in-law very much. But it acknowledges that not ever experience with mothers and/or motherhood is happy.

As for me, I celebrated by getting my first tattoo. I never really intended to get one, but this felt right, and it felt good to get it on Mother's Day for a few reasons:

1) It was a good day for me to honor that I AM Grace's mother, even though she isn't alive, and that I 100% made the decision I did for her out of love and a desire to see her experience as little pain and suffering as possible.

2) To note that while Grace didn't get to live outside of me, she absolutely mattered and leaves an imprint and impact far longer than her brief experience was.

3) To honor my own mother. She had talked frequently about wanting to teach Grace cursive when she was old enough, and this is in my mom's (amazing) handwriting

4) To always have Grace in my arm(s). She is now there, as permanently as I can arrange it.

5) To more broadly remind me to try to act as gracefully as I can. To be kind, forgiving and accepting of my own imperfections. To basically treat myself as I would have treated Grace. I think we all struggle with that.

I hope that everyone's Mother's Day was as happy and peaceful as possible, and for those that had harder ones, for any reason at all, I held you in my heart and continue to do so.

 

 

Vox Magazine's Comprehensive Piece on Abortion, Including Our Story

Out story has been include in Vox Magazine's Labor intensive fight: The state of abortion and reproductive health in Missouri

This piece shares multiple stories that represent the many different stances on reproductive rights and what fuels them. While the piece is focused on stories that represent Missouri's 3 million impacted women, it's easy to extrapolate the experiences, hurdles and opinions to just about any conservative state. As the piece's introduction states: "There are 3 million women in Missouri whose well-being hinges on our ability to understand why disagreeing neighbors shout alongside a road named for God himself [Providence Road]. We challenged 12 reporters to examine the state of women's reproductive health in Missouri. What follows is their experience — in church pews, along the highway, in the homes and businesses of the people affected most — and hopefully, a mutual understanding".

Labor intensive fight: The state of abortion and reproductive health in Missouri

Abortion is an unending national debate, and women's reproductive rights are intrinsically connected to it. These 14 stories chronicle the lives of Missourians engrained in the issue

You can find Jim's and my story under "The Choice". The piece is comprehensive; it features stories for people both on and off the campus at University of Missouri - Columbia, who/what is behind the anti-abortion billboards on Highway 70 running through the state, an article debunking Planned Parenthood myths and another discussing prayer and action.

I think Vox Magazine did a great job capturing many of the elements that make abortion such a difficult issue, and highly recommend everyone take the time to read ALL of the pieces, not just those that support your point of view. It's a very nuanced issue, Vox Magazine did a great job covering it as such, and it deserves to be read and considered.