Our Visit to Washington D.C. (Part 1: Preparing and Jim Advocating with Senator McCaskill)

I'm going to have to write the story of what the past 2 weeks has been like over a few different blog posts. It's just been so surreal and strange and sad and wonderful at the same time. I often say that I have never changed more in my life than I have in the past few months, since we lost Grace in November, and that feels especially true in the past week to two. Considering Grace's due date is quickly approaching, and everything that has recently transpired, I expect the coming weeks to remain tumultuous, exciting, rewarding and ultimately very bittersweet.

For now, I'm just going to start to cover what my experience has been over the past few days. I'll follow up soon with how all of this has felt, and a few other updates. 

As I said in my last post, I had no idea that Senator Dianne Feinstein was going to mention my Op Ed in the Washington Post during her opening remarks of Judge Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing. I was already planning a trip to Washington D.C. for late the week of March 20th that included advocating at the nation's capital for the first time in my life, and Senator Feinstein's words invigorated me. I was planning to meet with some great individuals I've been connected to at the National Abortion Foundation (NAF), and then word arrived that we were being invited to Judge Gorsuch's Supreme Court confirmation hearing as a guest of Senator Feinstein's. I was utterly elated. The honor and privilege of this invitation was not lost on me. 

I also felt suddenly very unsure of myself: not of my story - I feel strongly that we made the right personal choice for our family in response to the horrific news our daughter's fatal illness, but silly things like logistics stressed me out the most. What if our flight was canceled? It was already the last one of the night. How would my husband Jim be involved, if at all, with this new agenda? I already had plans for Coffee with Claire, an awesome-sounding event Senator Claire McCaskill does where she has coffee on Thursdays mornings that she is in D.C. with Missouri constituents. Would I still be able to do that? Would Jim go without me if I couldn't? What would I wear? Would it require me to wear pantyhose? (The answer was firm: yes.)

More importantly, I considered what materials I should bring with me. What would be most helpful for sharing our experience, which continues to break our hearts, and to help explain why it feels so urgent to share right now? What about the other heartbreaking and inspiring families I have met through this journey and their stories? I wanted to share these stories with anyone I could to both honor their losses and the terrible decisions they had to make (which are often met with criticism and scorn because the word abortion exists within them), and spread awareness. What happened to Grace is not an isolated incident. It has happened far more than people think and it will happen again. Our laws need to acknowledge this fact and be inclusive of it. 

I ended up bringing several folders with me which contained my written testimony and related media such as the Washington Post Op Ed and the St. Louis Public Radio piece, and numerous stories and media from other loss families. I will discuss these more in the next blog post.

The schedule for the day was set with me heading to Judge Gorsuch's Senate confirmation hearing early, and thus having to miss Senator McCaskill's coffee meeting. My husband, Jim, graciously offered to go and share our story instead since I could not attend. He reported that he met some amazing people, including Representative Bruce Franks Jr., and that he was able to share our story to a room of about 75 people, including Senator McCaskill. It's not really in Jim's nature to enjoy public speaking or attention, so his willingness to go and advocate for our story made me so proud, and served as a reminder of how important Grace was and remains to him, and always will be. Her fatal illness and subsequent termination doesn't diminish her importance or impact in our eyes. 

 Senator Claire McCaskill and Jim. Photo by Senator Claire McCaskill's staff.

Senator Claire McCaskill and Jim. Photo by Senator Claire McCaskill's staff.

 

In the next blog: My experience attending Judge Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing, meeting Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Grassley, and sharing our story with Senator McCaskill's staff.

Read Part 2 here!

 

 Jim and myself in the Hart Senate Office Building. Photo by Robin Utz

Jim and myself in the Hart Senate Office Building. Photo by Robin Utz