Why Missouri's Abortion Consents and Timeline Are a Big Deal

There have been some really great comments on my Washington Post Op Ed. Even ones that I don't necessarily agree with have been very thought provoking for me. For instance, this one from Yellow Lab (who, as a side note, has an adorable picture of his/her dog in the icon):

"I'm sorry that this happened to you and your husband. I'm sure it was awful.  
But I guess I don't understand how waiting three days for an abortion was beyond the pale, considering that it might have taken that long to schedule it anyway. 
Nor do I understand how acknowledging that you have heard the heartbeat and had an ultrasound, when you had already done those things, was so traumatic. Or that being handed "a packet" of literature was so terrible. 
There are always some sort of protocols with any procedure. I'm unclear as to why those were so outrageous."

The comments go on to discuss how all medical procedures involve paperwork, consents, etc. including (again from Yellow Lab):

"But there's no way on earth you have any procedure in a hospital without signing some paperwork, acknowledging risks, and being inconvenienced. That's just the way it is."

Yellow Lab, if you see this, thank you for taking the time to comment on my story, and for doing so thoughtfully. I appreciate that your response wasn't a rash one, and wasn't judgmental.

There are few things to unpack here. 

  • I think there has been a major misunderstanding. The paperwork that we had to fill out was not at a hospital, and it was not the typical medical consents you sign before any major medical procedure. 

The heartbeat, ultrasound and informed consent packets are 100% not official medical documentation. It is instead legal, politically-driven paperwork written by politicians, not doctors. In fact, there is blatantly misleading and inaccurate information in the Informed Consent packet.

No other procedure I have ever had to do involved this. I have no issues with medical consents, and signed many at the hospital where we had the termination. I have enormous issues with politically-motivated, ill-informed, legally-required consents. All families deserve to make their decisions with accurate, unbiased information about all aspects of the issue. We weren't given a packet describing the risks a mother incurs just by being pregnant, for instance (and they absolutely exist). It was all from the anti-abortion stance.

  • Additionally, there are no exceptions in this process for those with a fetal anomaly. I won't get into a debate about whether anyone ever deserves this today, but we were nearly 6 months pregnant. We had worked very, very hard to be pregnant with Grace. Her fatal fetal anomaly diagnosis was utterly devastating to us. Yet there aren't exceptions in the law for people like us. To say they were tone deaf would be an understatement. They were utterly inappropriate and cruel for our situation. The law either wasn't made with all factors considered, or is even more callous than I originally thought. I'm not sure which is worse.
  • Regarding the 72 hour waiting period: what if we had been told Grace had a 1% chance to make it? A 5% chance? 10%? Because of Grace's 100% fatal diagnosis, we decided immediately that termination was our only option, but others might not have made the decision the way we did, and that's totally ok too. What if it wasn't that case that her diagnosis was 100% fatal? We would have wanted to have time to consider what to do, learn about her potential quality of life,  learn about my own personal risks by continuing the pregnancy, discuss with one another as spouses and her parents, consult our higher power, and all of the other things that go into making a terribly difficult decision. All while being in utter shock and a fog of grief. That last one is hard to articulate in how powerful it is. I'd argue our quick decision is likely rare in this situation, and people deserve to have as much time as they need.

Ironically, the time limit forced us to act quickly instead of giving us all the time we might have wanted to make a decision of such gravity. Missouri limits abortion to 21 weeks, 6 days, and due to the 72 hours we terminated at 21 weeks 5 days. An anatomy scan is done between 18 and 22 weeks (Grace's was done at 20 weeks, 6 days), and insurance can be particular about how they cover anatomy scans and when. It puts families between a rock and a hard place. 

And what about people that find a health issue later in pregnancy? We were lucky we learned about Grace's early enough to terminate in the state we have always lived in, paid taxes in, etc.. Others learn about issues far later in their pregnancy and it doesn't make them any less fatal. The idea that there is a time limit on termination for medical reasons is incongruous with the actual experience and risks of pregnancy. 

Agree or disagree? Have questions? Thoughts? Comments? Please feel free to comment below or send me a message via the Contact Form!