Our Visit To Washington D.C. (Part 3: About the Folders I was Holding, and How I Felt)

You might have noticed in my picture in my blog post from attending Judge Gorsuch's confirmation hearing that I had several blue and green folders with me:

Meeting Senator Feinstein and Senator Grassley.  Photo from PBS NewsHour

Meeting Senator Feinstein and Senator Grassley.  Photo from PBS NewsHour

The folders were assembled in a bit of a rush, because I didn't have a lot of notice that I was going to get to attend the confirmation hearing. But they held information I was absolutely proud to carry and deliver, including:

  • Jim's and my testimony. I have sent our testimony about how we learned about Grace's fetal anomaly, subsequently terminated the pregnancy, and how it was to undergo this in the state of Missouri in letter format a few times when there are bills being evaluated, and so on. Jim shared his testimony when he testified against HB 757, a 20 week abortion ban being proposed currently in Missouri. You can read the bill here. You may notice that the bill does not have exceptions for fetal anomalies. It is also scientifically inaccurate according to five doctors we've talked to so far, all whom independently said a fetus doesn't feel pain until 28 weeks, not 20 as the bill asserts. So HB 757 is a great example of a bill being both based on false and/or disregarded medical science (where the law is designed to allow politicians decide when a fetus feels pain over experienced medical professionals that specialize in this), and without fully considering everyone that might be impacted by it. 

You can watch Jim's heartbreaking testimonial and the responses here (starts immediately): 

Missouri Progressive YouTube Channel

  • My Op Ed in the Washington Post. Senator Feinstein referenced my Op Ed in her opening remarks, so I felt it was important to include.
  • Others' Stories. This was a big one. We are not the only people that have gone through this. In fact, on an infertility support group that I participate in, of the 130 members, at least 3 other women have had to terminate pregnancies for medical reasons due to fetal anomalies. Once I joined Ending A Wanted Pregnancy, an amazing support group for women that have faced similar circumstances and have had to, like us, choose the the "best" from unimaginable options, I found other women that had shared their stories too. I highly encourage you to read the stories that I brought with me to Washington D.C. here

While each circumstance is different, the common threads of utter shock upon the news of a fetal anomaly, feeling 100% that termination of the pregnancy was the best option, government interference and astronomical expenses show up in nearly each story. 

I gave the folders to Senators, legislative counsel representatives and other individuals where their understanding of the issue and its impact is very important; these are some of the people that need to know the realities of who these laws fully affect and in what way, so they can be enabled to support and/or make different policy decisions in the future. I know it won't change every mind, but I am very hopeful that raised awareness will help in even a small way. It's discouraging to think that a lawmaker would know of our circumstances and still choose to pass a bill that makes carrying out our decision, made out of parental love, even harder, but at least they will have been informed rather than just unaware. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to personally hand these packets to Senators and other individuals of great influence. Being invited to Judge Gorsuch's confirmation hearing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am still overwhelmed 2 weeks later. Being in the room while people like Sandy Philips told the story of her daughter losing her life to gun violence in the Aurora, CO theater shooting was one of the saddest privileges of my life. The impact was overwhelming, and I wasn't the only one moved to tears by her testimony.

Watching testimony like Sandy's as well as watching the Senators interact with each other and with the witnesses served as a great reminder that we're all human beings. We all have feelings and senses of humor and things that outrage us. Many of us are really putting ourselves out there hoping that in exchange for letting people evaluate and assess us based on what we're sharing (even Sandy was subject to some of that), that the payoff will be educating some people and bringing about some change. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story, and to the other women who have so bravely shared their stories. We are all possibly subjecting ourselves to having our accounts of their darkest days ripped apart by strangers, all for the chance to hopefully educate the public and our elected officials on the realities of later term abortions, and to hopefully help usher in some change. That's absolutely the hope of every single person that shares. That's how strongly we feel about it. I can assure you the attention we garner is more negative than positive, and some days it's hard to keep going. We share to hopefully help prevent other families from facing at least the legal and stigma-related pain in the experience.

Do you have a story about ending a wanted pregnancy? Please feel free to contact me. Every single story helps make a difference!

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!