How Mis­souri added in­sult to the pain of my abor­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - BY ROBIN UTZ Robin Utz writes at De­fend­

My hus­band and I des­per­ately wanted to have a baby. We looked ex­ten­sively into adop­tion and tried to get preg­nant for four years with the help of fer­til­ity spe­cial­ists — en­dur­ing two in-vitro pro­ce­dures and mul­ti­ple failed em­bryo trans­fers. We were thrilled when our most re­cent in-vitro fer­til­iza­tion proved suc­cess­ful.

Un­for­tu­nately, we dis­cov­ered after my 21-week anatomy scan that our daugh­ter — Grace Pearl — had bi­lat­eral mul­ti­cys­tic dys­plas­tic kid­ney disease. Her kid­neys were not func­tion­ing, she had no am­ni­otic fluid and her lungs would never de­velop prop­erly. Three doc­tors told us our daugh­ter’s con­di­tion was 100 per­cent fa­tal due to the early on­set of her disease. She would ei­ther be still­born or would not sur­vive long after birth. My own risk would in­crease sev­en­fold if I con­tin­ued to carry her.

We made the ex­cru­ci­at­ing de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate the preg­nancy at 21 weeks and five days — nearly six months. We did this out of love: Ter­mi­nat­ing was the least painful and most hu­mane thing we could do for her. We did all we could to take on the phys­i­cal and emo­tional suf­fer­ing our­selves, in­stead of al­low­ing her to feel it. The physi­cian cut her um­bil­i­cal cord prior to the ter­mi­na­tion to en­sure that her heart would stop beat­ing and that she’d have as peace­ful of an ex­pe­ri­ence as pos­si­ble. Her pathol­ogy re­port con­firmed the doc­tors’ fa­tal di­ag­no­sis.

But the process to get that abor­tion in Mis­souri — the state where we live — was one of the most cal­lous and in­sult­ing ex­pe­ri­ences we have ever en­dured.

My hus­band and I had to wait 72 hours after con­sent­ing to the abor­tion so we could “con­sider what we were do­ing.” I had to sign a state­ment af­firm­ing that I heard my baby’s heart­beat (a sound that brought tears of joy to my eyes when I first heard it) and that I saw an ul­tra­sound (I had asked for more than what is rou­tinely pro­vided to re­as­sure my­self, hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced a mis­car­riage in the past). We were given a packet ex­plain­ing that we were ter­mi­nat­ing “the life of a sep­a­rate, unique, liv­ing hu­man be­ing.” There are no ex­cep­tions to th­ese pro­to­cols, even for peo­ple ter­mi­nat­ing for fe­tal anom­aly.

Mis­souri doesn’t al­low pri­vate in­sur­ance to pro­vide cov­er­age for abor­tions ex­cept in cases of life en­dan­ger­ment — pa­tients have to pur­chase riders for abor­tion cov­er­age at an ad­di­tional cost. That can make it ex­tremely ex­pen­sive to ob­tain one even at Planned Par­ent­hood, which is not able to use fed­eral funds for abor­tions. There are ex­cep­tions for this rule in the case of rape, in­cest or the health of the mother, but the health of the fe­tus is not con­sid­ered.

In fact, had we done the pro­ce­dure a mere two days later, we would have had to leave the state to have the ter­mi­na­tion due to Mis­souri’s late-term abor­tion law. In that sense we were lucky, but what would hap­pen to a sin­gle par­ent who couldn’t get off work, save the needed money or find some­one to watch her chil­dren be­fore the dead­line? What if she didn’t live in a metropoli­tan area with such ex­cel­lent doc­tors and fa­cil­i­ties?

I’m shar­ing this so you know who is af­fected if we fur­ther de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood, to­tally out­law abor­tions or pro­hibit late-term pro­ce­dures. In­deed, Mis­souri is con­sid­er­ing a 20week abor­tion ban with no ex­cep­tions for cases of fe­tal anom­alies.

If you be­lieve you wouldn’t make the same choice we did, be grate­ful that you will prob­a­bly never have to. But no one should force such a de­ci­sion on any­one. This should be be­tween you, your part­ner, your med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als and your higher power, if you be­lieve in one. It felt ut­terly ter­ri­ble to re­al­ize that politi­cians — who knew noth­ing about our cir­cum­stances, or worse, wouldn’t care if they did be­cause their sup­port­ers are so dog­mat­i­cally pro-life — have such con­trol over our op­tions.

Imag­ine for a mo­ment that the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion was re­versed. Imag­ine how you would feel if churches and peo­ple in gov­ern­ment thought the most hu­mane route for a fa­tal di­ag­no­sis was to im­me­di­ately ter­mi­nate the fe­tus against your wishes. Imag­ine that mul­ti­ple doc­tors ad­vised you to con­tinue with the preg­nancy, but that you couldn’t take their ad­vice or fol­low your own in­stincts be­cause a law pro­hib­ited you from do­ing so.

I know I won’t change ev­ery mind with our story, but I beg ev­ery­one to con­sider the full im­pact of out­law­ing abor­tion or mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to ob­tain one. Know that peo­ple like us would be hurt and that ba­bies like Grace would suf­fer. Thank­fully, we were able to do what we be­lieved was best for our beloved baby girl. Please don’t make it so oth­ers can’t do so in the fu­ture.

If you be­lieve you wouldn’t make the same choice we did, be grate­ful that you will prob­a­bly never have to.

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