Tuesday, July 20, 2010 • 12:00 AM Comments (2)

Should These Be Our Daughters' Stories?

posted by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

These are the kinds of stories we should not even have to discuss: whether women whose backs are truly against the proverbial wall obtain access—just to remember, access means funding—in order to terminate pregnancies that require termination to relieve extreme suffering or protect their health. Now, I believe we should not have to discuss any woman’s choice—and access to abortion—and yet for a moment, I’m going to remind us all where we are now.

Two examples: Maggie, a Class R diabetic and mother of two, whose first pregnancy resulted in complete bed rest at 16 weeks. During the pregnancy, she lost her eyesight—and remained blind for nearly a year. Doctors warned Maggie that with another pregnancy there was great potential for a stroke, permanent blindness and other life altering ailments. When faced with another pregnancy, she chose to terminate.

Except, there won’t be money for Maggie. On the floor of the Virginia General Assembly, lawmakers shared these stories, the ones you only hear when “a sister, a cousin, or a close friend has to face this kind of devastating choice.” And 84 of the 140 members of the General Assembly revoked the previously-held right of low-income women to receive Medicaid reimbursement for an abortion if the pregnancy presents a “substantial endangerment” to their health to save the commonwealth a mere $150,000. Too bad, Maggie, that’s what Virginia lawmakers proclaimed (not in so many words).

When federal employee D.J. Feldman learned the fetus she was carrying had severe anencephaly—her baby, if born, would almost certainly be stillborn—her doctor told her it was medically necessary to end the pregnancy. Feldman went to a local hospital for the abortion. Six weeks later, she her insurance company denied coverage for the procedure to terminate a non-viable pregnancy.

There are plenty more such stories.

Rebecca Sive writes about how Democratic lawmakers appear to be giving abortion rights away. How the perceived pressure from the right is so feared or assumed that those on the side of “equality” seem to be signing rights away without a fight. She argues that this tentative, too apologetic approach national pro-choice leaders have pursued with this (Democratic) administration is “ameliorative,” and that it’s led “to the abandonment of American women in most need.” These are the same Democrats who chose Harry Reid as their leader, and just to remind everyone, he does not support abortion rights.

Pregnancy is a lot of things, and one of them is potentially complicated, even dangerous. The abortion procedure is as medical surgeries go relatively simple. Lack of access to a safe medical procedure is medically dangerous. Why risk the costs—physical, emotional, and financial—of less safe termination of pregnancies or continuation of pregnancies that are medically unsound? It’s not so far from the less often talked about stories lawmakers shared before deciding that those “worst case scenarios” were on those women’s and those families’ problems to the story of your daughter or your friend’s daughter, who hits some other legally constructed roadblock that changes her life.

I don’t care what you think about the whole morality of abortion question. Here’s what I care about: when someone I love or you love faces a life-changing moment because she’s pregnant, whether she wants to be or doesn’t, whether the outcome of the pregnancy is potentially devastating medically or not, I want this moment to be hers. I want her to have the equality assumed that ensures her ability to determine her life’s course. I don’t want her to risk her eyesight or her life or the unfair sadness of being forced to birth a dead baby or her college education or her chance to create a baby with someone she commits to loving forever or her never having a baby. I want her future to be hers, not a lawmaker’s. I find it impossible to imagine that Barack Obama wants his daughters’ future to be up for debate like this. And that’s why I know that defending those in the most dire circumstances is really a step to defending Malia and Sasha’s rights, too, and our daughters’ and nieces’ and sisters’ and friends’ rights. That is the bigger picture. And it’s not looking good right now.

Comments (2)
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Please submit this most urgent pece of writing to the Times or someplace whereit wil have the greatest readership. Then maybe one day you can stop writing about abortion because it will be a right. Perfectly presented.

Posted by susan rees on 7.20.10 at 11:52

sarah, you do such an incredibly amazing job of putting this issue on the table, in a light that we can *all* see more clearly in. eloquent, strong, informed. well done, and thank you!

Posted by Galit on 7.21.10 at 16:03
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