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.

Even if Kavanaugh Doesn't Vote to Overturn Roe, He Poses a Huge Threat to Abortion Access

This article in the New York Times gave a great illustration of what I worry could happen if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court.

How a Supreme Court Shaped by Trump Could Restrict Access to Abortion

President Trump has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was a cautious supporter of abortion rights.

 

As illustrated in the article, while Kavanaugh may respect Roe as settled law, he could vote with other justices to give more power back to the states. Missouri is an example of how we cannot afford to have that happen.

When I had my abortion in November 2016, there was only one Planned Parenthood in the state of Missouri. I had to wait 72 hours, and because of that, bumped up against the deadline in the state for how late I can get an abortion (21 weeks, 6 days, and I had my abortion at 21 weeks, 5 days). I had to sign awful consents and with all of that, still didn't hit all of the many abortion laws that Missouri has. Some of them have been ruled unconstitutional in other states.

If, as Senator Collins says, Brett Kavanaugh has said he'll respect Roe v. Wade as settled law, that doesn't meant that he'll not vote with other judges to give more and more power to states to decide what is legal or not. That is also very, very dangerous to women's rights and health.

Missouri is already a very difficult place to get an abortion, and that abortion will be granted with two heaping spoonfuls of judgement and a side of biased, flawed information. For example, the consents I had to sign didn't also discuss both the pros and cons of pregnancy - only those that presume a human life starts at conception (a belief that is not supported by the scientific community) and ignore facts like maternal mortality rate (the US has the highest rate outside of third world countries) and risk to the mother's health. If they were balanced, I'd respect them more.

We cannot afford to have our reproductive rights undermined any further; indeed, we need to be gaining rights back that have been taken from us from deeply conservative lawmakers that have shown, in my persona experience in reaching out to them and testifying next to them, to have no understand or desire to learn about what real women face. These laws are dangerous, ignorant and disrespectful. 

We need to ask our Senators to vote no on Kavanaugh because his confirmation would deeply threaten abortion access. It's what is right for our privacy, humanity and health. No one deserves to get to tell me what, legally, I am allowed to do if I find myself in a situation again like I did with Grace. Only I was in the room with all of the doctors, seeing the ultrasounds and hearing the diagnosis and odds of survival. To allow lawmakers that don't care about our circumstances to decide for us is blatantly wrong. 

Please call your Senators today and ask them to vote no on Kavanaugh.  You can find their contact information here.

 

Please Call Your Senators: Roe v Wade is About Personal Liberty, not Abortion.

I have been very busy in the land of advocacy lately, but unfortunately not as available here due to that. One thing I got to do that was very rewarding was speak at the Unite for Justice event:

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It was a huge honor to share Grace's story as well as hear the other speakers explaining why Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court and subsequent votes could threaten our rights. 

I read this article recently and it really captured one of my biggest concerns: 

Roe v Wade isn't about abortion - it's about personal liberty. A government that can tell us we cannot have an abortion can also tell us that we must have one. 

That's an inappropriate and terrifying amount of responsibility to give the government, and I can tell you from my experience, their judgments and decisions do not match the circumstances we find ourselves facing. Please read and call your Senators and ask that they vote no on Kavanaugh. Even Senators that you think have already decided - I am hearing that they are hearing far more from people that are for Kavanaugh than against. 

 

Opinion | Remember a woman's right not to have an abortion

Regarding the Aug. 22 news article " Sen. Collins says Kavanaugh sees Roe as 'settled'  ": Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is described as "a centrist who supports abortion rights." If she votes to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, she will have exposed that reputation as a sham.

Could Abortion Become Illegal In The U.S.? Our Story on 1A - Listen Here and Ask Me Anything

Grace's story including learning about her fetal anomaly, our decision to abort, and how it felt navigating Missouri's restrictive abortion laws was included on NPR's 1A show this morning. You can listen here:

Could Abortion Become Illegal In The U.S.? - 1A

New restrictions in some conservative states are urging a high court battle over a woman's right to an abortion.

I wanted to offer up to anyone visiting for this reason: if you have ANY questions, please feel free to ask! I am a pretty open book. This really happened to us, this really is the decision we felt 100% was right for us, and it absolutely continues to happen to women and families around the country. I know you might be coming here as a person against abortion and very uncomfortable with it, and I get that. I really do. But it also is true that our story really happened, and the laws need to acknowledge people like us. 

 

Please feel free to ask me any questions, or send any comments here, on our Facebook, or Twitter

 

Thanks for listening, considering our story, and for really considering this very, very nuanced and difficult topic. 

Please Call Your Representative About House Bill 36 Today! (Script Included!)

On Tuesday, October 3, Congress will be voting on House Bill 36 which is a 20 week abortion ban.

If this had been in effect when we learned about Grace's disease last November, we would not have been able to terminate the pregnancy, thus meaning I would have had to continue carrying her until she was either crushed to death by the pressure of my body without amniotic fluid to cushion her, or I would have delivered her to immediate pain and suffering and death. No child with the bilateral type of her disease (which she had) has survived, according to the many doctors we have discussed this with. There is no medical intervention for this. My own risk would have gone up 7 times.

If you'd like to help fight against this (and I'd be grateful if you would!), here is a script you can use for calling your representatives. Currently, the vote is scheduled for Tuesday, October 3rd.

  • Step 1: Find your representative here.
  • Step 2: Call them up! This might sound daunting but I can promise you that dialing is the hardest part. A staff member (not the representative) will answer. You need to say you are a constituent from [say your zip code] and would like to discuss House Bill 36, and request that your representative vote no on it.
  • Step 3: Tell them why! When I call (I've already called about this a few times), I tell them a brief version of my own story. I tell them I know over 500 other women that have had to make the same heartbreaking choice I have and that this will never end for families - many diseases that are fatal for the unborn are not discovered into far further into the pregnancy than 20 weeks. I tell them the bill is based on erroneous information that pain is felt at 20 weeks, when 7 doctors have told me it's more like 24-28 weeks. Here are a few other points:
    • This is another instance of politicians inserting themselves in the most private and personal medical decisions best left between a woman, her doctor, and her family.
    • More than 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks. Those that occur after 20 weeks are often cases of very much wanted pregnancies that have gone horribly wrong (like mine).
    • This is not about protecting pregnant women or babies. If it were, how would they answer my situation (and the 1% of women that terminate after 21 weeks where their health suffers and their child will die a very painful death if they cannot terminate? This flies in the face of the stated intent of the bill). This is a political move, not one designed with health in mind, otherwise, it would not have medical falsehoods as the premise.
    • Here is a link with lots of other information on why these bills are so harmful: Link
  • Step 4: Thank the staff member for their time and for listening.

That's it! If you'd prefer not to call and to instead fax a message in, Resistbot is an AMAZING tool for this where you can fax from your phone or Facebook messenger! So easy!

I, and all of the women that still have this devastating situation still to come in their lives (your daughters, cousins, sisters, nieces, wives...) all thank you. Even the ones that think they wouldn't: trust me, you wouldn't want to not have the choice to do what you think is best when you face this. You deserve the right to make the choice, even if you'd make a different one that we did.

Let Me Tell You About My Friend Dana

One of the things that has made losing Grace a little more bearable has been the support from friends and family. I feel like that sentence is so generic it almost doesn't mean anything, but in the moments when you get a card/flowers/text/visit, it makes so a profound difference that no sentence could really capture it. 

I have friends and family that run the gamut across belief systems, including very conservative, Catholic family to deeply liberal, atheist friends and every single person has chosen to show us love and support to whatever extent they find possible. It's been an amazing gift in our lives as we navigate this. It's a unique sort of grief that comes with being presented with such a heartbreaking reality and decision for a very wanted child, and then additionally having that decision be so condemned by much of society. I have been called a murderer more than once. Thankfully, never by anyone whose opinion I value. 

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I quickly become overwhelmed by gratitude for our friends and family when I pause for even a second to consider their generosity of love and spirit, but today I want to put a little spotlight on my friend Dana, who I have known for around 12 years. She has been a great friend to me, from saving my cat's life to being one of two people (along with our friend Beth) that introduced me to Jim. 

Dana was halfway around the world on her honeymoon with her husband Ben when we learned about Grace's fatal fetal diagnosis, and took the time to send us a note expressing her condolences and support when she learned. Little did any of us know she would come home shortly thereafter and learn she was pregnant herself. It put us in a predictably awkward situation with me having just ended a pregnancy I had chased for nearly 4 years, and Dana in the impossible situation of trying to figure out how to tell her grieving friend she was pregnant. She was kind, considerate, and has made sure I feel remembered during her entire pregnancy. It has made a world of difference to me.

When I testified during Governor Greitens's 20k/day special session, I had to cancel dinner plans with Dana and a few friends to make the logistics work. Despite being around 30 weeks pregnant, working full time and facing the last minute nature of testifying (I found out at noon that I was leaving around 7 am the next morning), Dana dropped everything to join me. She drove with me 2.5 each way and sat in the Senate room all day with no breaks for the opportunity to support me and share her own perspective: that watching what the state of Missouri had done to Jim and me after we made what we believe so strongly to be a loving, humane decision to end our pregnancy had cost Dana comfort, security and joy in her own pregnancy. She realized it could happen to anyone, saw how deeply it affected us, and felt compelled to say something to protect other families. Her testimony was powerful, vulnerable and impossible to ignore. 

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I have always been and will continue to be grateful for Dana's friendship: at a time when it undeniably might have been more comfortable for her to distance herself from my circumstances in order to feel more secure in her own (especially as a first time mother), she pulled me closer. Dana put her own comfort and safety on the line and stepped out of her comfort zone to speak up for me, Grace, herself and every other woman in Missouri. I am in awe of her strength and her ability to not only own her power, but to also realize and capitalize on the absolutely true fact that anyone can advocate and make a difference: we all have a story, and Dana sharing hers truly made a difference. I can't wait for her baby to be born (any day now!) and to see what kind of mom she is, but no matter how she approaches it, that is one lucky baby to have such an amazing mom.