"I'm sorry for your loss."
How many times have we all uttered those words without really considering what they mean or how they might affect the person on the receiving end?
After my third miscarriage this summer, just three months after the second one, those words enraged me. I didn't "lose" my babies. They weren't misplaced car keys or sunglasses that could be found in another room later.
It's the cruelest thing in the world to wake up in the morning knowing you're pregnant, only to have an ultrasound in the afternoon and learn your pregnancy is "not viable."
And it's even crueler for your mind to know it before your body does. Your body, activated by pregnancy hormones, continues to undergo rapid changes as it prepares to accommodate a pregnancy that no longer exists.
For two of my three pregnancies, I had advance warning of the impending miscarriage when my doctor gave me the bad news after a routine ultrasound. I was given three choices: have a dilation and curettage procedure where my uterine lining is scraped away, take a pill or let it pass on its own.
It was an agonizing decision. Each option presents its own unique set of physical and emotional trauma.
Both times, I opted to let the miscarriage pass on its own. I was warned if it didn't pass within a certain amount of time, I would have to return for the D&C.
It's the ultimate mind f*ck to wait and wonder how and when something that was once growing inside of you will come out. It feels like you have a ticking time bomb lodged inside your uterus while you wait for your body to destroy what it once sustained.
Despite the emotional anguish and physical pain I experienced before, during and after my miscarriages, I feel fortunate. I had excellent medical care and I was given a choice in how to proceed.
I'm lucky that I learned these miscarriages were imminent. Many women, especially those without access to pre-natal health care, receive no advance warning.
In today's tense political climate, powerful right-wing zealots -- mostly old white men -- are waging an all-out assault on a woman's right to control what happens in her own body, which includes the ability to make a choice on how to handle a miscarriage.
They're fighting to make reproductive health care less accessible and less affordable to the very women who need it most. They're working to institute draconian legal restrictions at the local, state and federal levels.
Last year, when Vice President Pence was Governor of Indiana, he signed into law a bill that not only restricted abortion rights, but outlawed them altogether in situations where the mother knew there would be genetic abnormalities. In essence, the bill would force some women to give birth against their will.
One of the first things we're taught as kids is to keep our hands to ourselves. What Vice President Pence and his allies seek is the equivalent of using their hands to cork the uterus of every woman.
Chromosomal abnormalities are the cause of 40-75% of all miscarriages, meaning those pregnancies are unlikely to result in a live birth.
Pence's law went so far as to mandate that, "a miscarried or aborted fetus must be interred or cremated by a facility having possession of the remains...[this person or facility] is required to ensure that the miscarried or aborted fetus is preserved until final disposition occurs."
Does this mean if a woman has a miscarriage at home, she's supposed to collect and preserve the tissue until it can be buried or burned? It's too horrific to imagine. About 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage -- making roughly one in five women in Indiana a criminal if they failed to comply with this law's requirements for disposing of the remains.
Thankfully, a federal judge overturned Pence's law in June.
Yet the dismantling of women's reproductive and health care rights continues.
Candidate Trump promised to stack the Supreme Court with justices who'd overturn Roe v. Wade. As President, his first nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, appears to fit this model.
Republicans in Congress are trying to strip Planned Parenthood of any federal funding, even though NO federal taxpayer dollars go toward abortions (it's against the law). The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal Medicaid funding of abortion services, was passed in 1976.
Why are the congressional Republicans still so dead set on defunding Planned Parenthood?
Planned Parenthood provides dozens of essential life-saving services, including diabetes screening, mammograms and pap smears, to women who might not otherwise have access to them.
I don't understand how people who claim to be all about the sanctity of human life can so callously disregard the lives and wishes of living, breathing women who already exist in this world.
We have two choices before us. We can sit idle on the sidelines as our rights are eroded, or we can stand up and fight.
Women comprise 53% of the electorate, which means we have the power to decide what happens next.
If we choose to do nothing, we will all be sorry for our loss.