Find out more →

Get unlimited access. Become a digital member!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

First-hand: 20-week abortion limit is unfair

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 6:43 AM

pro_choice_women_note_cards_pk_of_20.jpg
With Rep. Andy Mayberry's bill to ban abortions in Arkansas from the 20th week of pregnancy onward currently delayed in a Senate committee, there's still time to hear from those who think this legislation has negative consequences for women, in addition to potentially running afoul of federal court precedent.

I received this essay on the topic yesterday.

Ten months ago my wife and I learned that she was pregnant, and we couldn’t have been more excited. We made a baby budget, bought parenting books, and paid careful attention to everything she ate. We were ready to be parents.

At nineteen weeks we had the ultrasound that would tell us our baby’s gender. Our best friends were having a boy, and we were anxious to know. Within moments we were looking at our baby girl for the first time. Her name was Amelia.

Imagine how we felt when our ultrasound technician stopped smiling. I am a pilot in the Air Force. Even flying in combat over Iraq and Afghanistan, I had never fully understood the meaning of dread. Now I know, dread is what occupies the 15 minutes between an ultrasound and doctor’s return.

After a very long weekend, we were seen by a high risk specialist. Two new words were inked into our vocabulary: “encephalocele” and “holoprosencephaly.” Do not Google these terms; the results will break your heart. Of her numerous problems, these were the most serious. We had previously opted for every diagnostic test to ensure our baby’s health, and were one of the first couples in Arkansas to try a new screening of our baby’s chromosomes in blood taken from the mother. We had gotten a false negative. Amelia would not survive to term.

My wife is a surgical nurse, and our family is one of doctors, educators, and veterans. We knew the prognosis, what questions to ask, what every term and statistic meant. Regardless, I cannot adequately describe our grief, fear, and anger, or the agony of days spent on hold with insurance companies and hospitals.

The genetic counselors in the high risk pregnancy center were patient and understanding, but the situation was bleak. We could allow the baby to die naturally, but my wife could feel the tiny baby kicking and that constant reminder would be emotionally unbearable. There were several options for termination of the pregnancy. We chose the option that was safest.

We returned to the specialist center later and sat down in front of the ultrasound for the last time. The doctor placed a needle through my wife’s uterus to the baby’s heart, which stopped immediately. Two weeks later, our stillborn baby was delivered in a quiet delivery room. She weighed eight ounces, much smaller than I expected.

Many family friends and coworkers have since come forward with their own stories of abortions, miscarriages, and stillbirths. We had never suspected. As one mentor put it to me, I had joined a secret fraternity of parents who had lost a baby.

A bill proposing a 20-week cut-off for terminating pregnancies in the State of Arkansas just passed the Arkansas House of Representatives. It is arbitrary and wrong.

Our first ultrasound happened at nineteen weeks, as is the case within most pregnancies. It is usually the first opportunity for doctors to diagnose serious problems. By the time we were seen by a specialist, we were past twenty weeks. Recently a coworker came to my wife in tears, sharing her story for the first time. Her own ultrasound had revealed her baby’s fatal kidney failure and she faced the same gut-wrenching decision.

The Arkansas legislation establishes criminality at the very moment when parents and their doctors have to face painful reality. The bill is a product of ignorance and insensitivity to the suffering of parents and their unborn children. This legislation demands that grieving mothers carry their baby as long as possible, without exception. It declares that politicians know better than medical experts in every situation, even ours. This is not an argument about unwanted children. It is about the right of parents and their doctors to make educated and moral decisions with all the facts, not with a calendar.

The debate about abortion is personal for us. We wanted our child. We do not vote in Arkansas, we are here because I am stationed in Little Rock, and it is where we have to seek medical treatment. Military families like mine with spouses deployed and concerns of their own are subject to this unconscionable law as well.

It is unfair to demand that parents like us come forward with stories of personal loss, now in the state Capitol or later in courthouses. The decision we had to make was painful, personal, and ethical. My outrage as a husband and would-be father will not permit me to remain silent.

(Editor's Note: By way of shorthand, some articles about Mayberry's bill say it will provide exceptions to save the life "and health" of the mother. The bill is far more restrictive than a general "health" exception. This is the precise language on the exception short of imminent death:

However, subdivision (a)(1) of this section does not apply if, in reasonable medical judgment, the pregnant woman has a condition which so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman, not including psychological or emotional conditions.

There is no exception for rape or incest, a stumbling block for some legislators. These serious health risks should have at least equal concern. In this context, Sen. Jason Rapert's bill to ban abortions after 10 weeks is beyond the pale.)

Tags: , ,

Speaking of...

  • Hobby Lobby invests in contraceptive makers

    June 30, 2014
    Hobby Lobby, which won a Supreme Court ruling that it need not cover certain forms of birth control, invests its retirement money in funds whose holdings include makers of those forms of birth control, as well as insurance companies that cover abortions. /more/
  • Rapert's latest grandstanding; he honors a kindred spirit at Boys State

    May 29, 2014
    Bro. Jason Rapert got to grandstand at Boys State today about that liberal bully down in Little Rock — me. He might have had the crowd with him on abortion, but I think he might have found a different response on marijuana and Faulkner county beer sales. /more/
  • The Boys State open line

    May 27, 2014
    The open line begins with a discussion of my annual trip to Boys State. Attitudes are softening on gay marriage, I detected. Legal marijuana, you ask? Pass the doobie, brother. /more/
  • Dustin McDaniel continues to do Jason Rapert's dirty work

    May 27, 2014
    The state of Arkansas has filed its appeal of Judge Susan Webber Wright's finding that the 2013 law prohibiting most abortions after 12 weeks' gestation is unconstitutional. You wonder how McDaniel and his staff sleep at night filing this kind of balderdash. /more/
  • The abortion prohibition movement advances

    May 22, 2014
    The New York Times notes the spread in Southern states, including neighboring Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, of laws aimed at requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. The laws are under challenge. If allowed to stand they will, as designed, wipe out the availability of abortion in broad swaths of the country. /more/
  • UPDATE: Catholic bishop voices reservations about QualChoice acquisition, completed today

    May 1, 2014
    Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Little Rock Catholic diocese has expressed reservations about the acquisition of the QualChoice insurance company by Catholic Health Initiatives, which operates the St. Vincent Health System. The issue would appear to be insurance coverage of reproductive care. Despite the bishop's concern, the deal has been done, it was announced this morning. /more/
  • More »

Comments (26)

Showing 1-26 of 26

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-26 of 26

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • D.C. politics in Arkansas

    The 2013 legislative session, with its first Republican majority, resembled partisan-driven Washington in many ways, though the narrow 51-49 Republican edge in the House forced some bipartisan accommodation.
    • Jul 24, 2014
  • Pryor campaign: Tom Cotton claims credit for farm aid he voted against

    Republican Rep. Tom Cotton praised federal aid for flood-damaged farmers and ranchers, but didn't mention he'd voted against the legislation that provided the aid. The Pryor campaign did.
    • Jul 23, 2014
  • More »

People who saved…

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31  

Blogroll

 

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation