Republican governors in Oklahoma and Kansas recently signed bills outlawing a medical procedure often used for second-trimester miscarriages called a dilation and evacuation (D&E). Anti-abortion advocates refer to it as a "dismemberment abortion," a new rhetorical twist on what they used to call "a partial-birth abortion," which was an abortion performed after 20 weeks. How a dilation and evacuation works is that a woman's cervix is dilated, and then the fetus is taken out in pieces. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin described the procedure as "gruesome." But had she taken time to talk to a woman who had to have a D&E, she might realize that the women having these procedures and the doctors performing them aren't monsters—they are humans trying to make the best choice in bad circumstances.
Her pregnancy was going fine until well into her second trimester, when the 20-week anatomy scan went sour. "[A]n amnio confirmed triploidy, a chromosomal defect that is incompatible with life," she writes. "Our little girl had 69 chromosomes instead of the normal 46, contributing to Dandy Walker Syndrome, a diaphragmatic hernia, and severely stunted growth. She weighed just 8 oz. Normal weight for a fetus at 23 weeks is just over 1 lb."
The poster lives in Ohio, and says that there was only one doctor in her conservative city willing to do the procedure. Because that doctor worked at a Catholic hospital, he needed to get permission from the CEO and the ethics board of the hospital in order to do the procedure. The doctor had to explain that letting the fetus pass naturally—another option for a woman experiencing the poster's kind of miscarriage—was a danger to the health of the mother. Had the hospital denied her doctor, the woman would have had to go to another state to get care—something that would have been stressful, expensive, and potentially dangerous.
Because of Ohio's anti-choice laws, before she got the procedure, the woman says she had to be presented with "literature" about what was going to happen to her. "The 'fetal development' booklet looked like it hasn't been updated since the '70s." This jibes with the experiences of other women who have needed miscarriage management in Ohio. Tamara Mann Tweel wrote in the Huffington Post about the difficulty she had in obtaining a second-trimester procedure for a fetus her doctors said was not viable. Her hospital gave her trouble because the fetus still had a heartbeat, even though her doctor said, "The organs are not inside the baby's body. The hands and feet are curled; actually, one limb seems to be stunted or missing. The neck isn't right. This really doesn't look good."
Luckily, both Mann and isitpinkisitpink got the procedures they needed. But it certainly seemed to add to the grief and stress they were already experiencing as miscarrying mothers to have to justify their medical needs to a bunch of bureaucrats, who in turn were obligated to act the way they did because of religious or political forces. They also had to wait longer, potentially endangering their health. The longer isitpink waited, she says, she was at risk for starting to miscarry naturally, which her doctor said was incredibly risky for her and could cause other complications, like infection or preeclampsia. Let's be clear: These women were not getting elective abortions in the strict sense of the term; they were getting management for unviable pregnancies. But even so, 90 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester. A D&E is not a procedure that happens willy nilly, and it's not something that women are overjoyed about needing.
Whether or not a woman gets a medical procedure should not be up to her politician or to the CEO of a hospital. It should be between her and her doctor. While Reddit is not usually known for its kindness and civility, the posters on isitpinkisitpink's AMA have been incredibly generous, even crediting her with changing their mind about abortion. Isitpink wrote:
I am pro-choice because I am pro-life. Does that make sense? My little girl would never have a life, and attempting to give her that could take mine away in the process. It would be dangerous to attempt it.
Instead, she passed painlessly inside me and was never alone. She will be cremated and spread in a garden at the hospital where they scatter all the lost babies. To me, that is more dignified than bleeding out in the bathtub and having her go down the drain.
One of the commenters was particularly moved by the phrase "Instead, she passed painlessly inside of me and was never alone." The commenter wrote, "wow. as a young woman (29) who has mostly identified myself as pro-life but very open and seeking something to shift my thinking on this subject, I think I have found it in this beautiful sentence. thank you OP for that. and bless your beautiful daughter." If only the governors from Oklahoma and Kansas could actually talk to the women having these procedures, maybe they'd realize the tragic error of these laws.
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