Over My Dead Body (Literally)

We must find ways to have a civil dialogue that balances the needs and rights of women. When all sides can come together in reason, committed to caring for every person on this planet, maybe we'll make some headway on this issue.
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Republicans have declared a war on women, attempting to take away their right to make their own health care decisions, including the use of contraception for family planning and medical reasons. They've also introduced hundreds of bills into state legislatures across the country which attempt to introduce "personhood clauses," which encroach upon women's reproductive rights. These bills are usually presented in ways that play upon the sympathies of women, by using stories from current events. In Colorado, HB1130 uses the tragic story of a pregnant woman who was hit by a car and killed, to sneak in a definition of life as beginning with a fertilized egg.

As a suburban mother, a former preschool and religious school teacher, and one of nine children raised in a conservative home, I might have fallen for their tactics. Fortunately, I've been paying attention for too long.

If the Republicans were really interested in protecting babies, rather than playing to their base for donations and votes, they would not have exempted doctors from prosecution in the CO bill. Medical malpractice in obstetrics and gynecology is a huge problem, but they exempted doctors in HB1130. Why? Because the AMA is a large contributor to the Republican Party.

If Republicans were really interested in protecting babies, they would be making sure fewer young and poor women were becoming pregnant. How? By covering contraception under every insurance plan in these United States.

If Republicans were really interested in protecting babies, they would be investing more public funding in higher education. Women who go to college are far less likely to become unmarried mothers than women who do not.

I've shared my own traumatic pregnancy story in blogs before. What I did not share was what was going through my head in the minutes between being told my life depended on having a D&C, and actually having one. In a nutshell, I had been a stay-at-home mother of a one-and-a-half year old, married to a graduate student. I was four months into my second pregnancy when I awoke one morning in a pool of blood. At the hospital, I was given an ultrasound and told I was no longer carrying a fetus, but Gestational Trophoblastic disease.

The condition started with a molar pregnancy (hydatitiform mole, a condition where the fetus becomes crowded out by pre-cancerous tumors within the uterus which are fed by pregnancy hormones, resulting in rapid abdominal growth mimicking a normal pregnancy). I was told the ultrasound indicated the fetus was no longer viable, but in very rare instances, sometimes they still can be. Once the uterus fills with the tumors, and bleeding begins, the woman will bleed to death unless she is emergently given a D&C. While I sat waiting for my emergency surgery (I was bleeding heavily at the time), I thought of my conservative upbringing, my previous anti-abortion beliefs, and my own toddler at home, waiting for his Mommy to come home.

I knew I had no choice but to have the D&C because my life depended on it, and even in the very small chance the ultrasound was wrong about the fetus being non-viable, not having one meant certain death for me and the fetus, anyway. Still, my grief over losing a wanted pregnancy, coupled with the terror of waking up in a pool of blood, was second only to my strong sense of guilt. Although I had every reason to believe I was doing the right thing, and I had even fought for the ERA while in college, I was suffering from what mental health experts call "internalized oppression" -- the belief that somehow I wasn't qualified to make my own decisions about my own life.

I could have died that day. I could have bled to death. And if I had, my baby at home would have not had a mother.

Damn Republican legislators for making any woman value her own life less than the "life" of a handful of cells the size of a walnut. Damn Republican legislators for using a woman's personal decisions about her own life to get donors, or votes, for their own political advancement. Damn Republican legislators for valuing women below their own greedy career aspirations and the opportunity to make money as lobbyists later on.

I had that D&C, and received close monitoring from my personal physician, a radiologist, an oncologist and an endocrinologist for the following year. I was told I might not be able to have more children because the precancerous tumors were very aggressive and advanced, and the inside of my uterus looked like it had been through a lawnmower. Fortunately, a biopsy said the tumors were benign, and none of them traveled to any other parts of my body.

Two years and eleven ultrasounds later, I gave birth to Jonathan Lincoln. His name means, "A gift from G-d." Two years after that, I gave birth to Jordan Eric. Every day since then, I privately thank G-d for ending that pregnancy before I had to do it myself. Every day, I thank G-d for giving me all three of my children. Every day, I thank G-d I made the right decision; the decision to save my own life -- with no looking back.

I am adamantly pro-choice because of the many situations where it is unwise or dangerous for a woman to continue a pregnancy, and I will fight to the end for every woman to make her own health care decisions.

At the same time, I am no ogre; I do feel compassion for a fully developed fetus that could live outside the womb if it were delivered. We must find ways to have a civil, intelligent dialogue that balances the needs and rights of a woman, the educational, psychological, financial and health care needs of an infant after birth, and scientifically-proven fetal development. We cannot have this discussion as long as American society refuses to care for women and children, and continues to deny them the basic necessities of life -- food, shelter, health care, clean air and water, etc. When all sides can come together in reason, committed to caring for every person on this planet, and absent from religious dogma, maybe we'll make some headway on this issue. Until then, we must always protect a woman's right to choose.

To the anti-choice Republicans in the CO State Legislature, if we have not yet met, I look forward to the day we do. When that happens, I will look into your eyes and ask you, "Would you really have let me die?"

Join me and thousands of other women on April 28th at 10 a.m. for a March and Rally Against the War On Women At Civic Center Park. Someday, the life you save, may be your own. www.unitewomen.org

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