In response to the leaked draft of Justice Alito’s opinion, Americans across the globe are voicing outrage over the impending loss of our bodily autonomy.
Over decades, we have all heard the same arguments used to support and oppose a person’s right to choose an abortion–and those arguments typically center themselves around when life starts. Abortion has never been about life, though, and I refuse to engage in that discussion.
The controversy over abortion is only about power.
Once a baby is born, that baby is dead to the “pro-life” crowd.
As increasingly restrictive abortion laws have passed in Texas, we have experienced the impact on not only the safety of abortion care access, but also on people experiencing miscarriages. When politicians who are not healthcare professionals create and pass laws that interfere with personal healthcare decisions, those laws are broad and voters who support these laws don’t anticipate the number of unintended, dangerous consequences.
My own personal story is one example of how those unintended consequences can affect everyday people. I have two children. Between the births of my two children, I had a miscarriage. The pregnancy was planned. When I went to my OBGYN for my 8-week checkup, we discovered I’d lost the pregnancy at just under 7 weeks. I was devastated and mourned the loss of having another child. I decided to allow my body to miscarry naturally, and my doctor supported that decision because statistically there wasn’t a significant danger and I have quick, easy access to healthcare. Unlike many Americans, I was lucky and had health insurance and a major hospital system within a 15-minute drive from my home. At about 12 weeks, my body started the process of miscarrying. On that first day, I sobbed over the toilet as I bled. I was losing blood and tissue, and I felt gutted. In addition to mourning my loss, I felt the heavy load of anti-abortion rhetoric and religious dogma enter my mind. Was I a horrible mother? What kind of person was I that I was flushing my tissue–my baby–down the toilet? I started catching bits between my fingers, weeping into them as I punished myself. It was traumatic, but it wasn’t until later that I realized much of my trauma came from the anti-choice movement.
A friend watched my son the next day so that I could be alone for my miscarriage. My mother, an RN, checked on me but couldn’t leave her work as a labor & delivery nurse in Baltimore. I also had instructions from my OBGYN that if I soaked through more than one pad an hour, I needed to call. A funny thing happens when you’re losing blood, though. You lose your ability to think clearly. The emotional toll combined with the loss of blood and tissue proved to be too much.
I suspected I needed to call my doctor and I called my husband so he could take me in. After I hung up, things got worse. I updated my husband and called 911.
While speaking to the operator, I lost the ability to stand. The operator asked me to make my way to the front door, so I started crawling. But my body couldn’t even keep up the crawling. I laid myself down on the floor and used my feet to push myself to the front door. My front door was locked and I didn’t want my dogs getting loose if EMS broke it down, so I used what I had left to unlock the front door. I collapsed to the floor and started convulsing. I went into shock.
EMS arrived right at that moment–again, we were lucky because our fire station is 2 minutes from my house–and took me to the hospital. When I saw my OBGYN’s face, I knew how grave the situation was. She performed the D&C I wanted to avoid and I had a blood transfusion because I had lost so much. My placenta had gotten stuck. My body was trying to flush it out but couldn’t do it without medical intervention. I hemorrhaged.
Anti-choice activists will dismiss my story and chalk it up to being an exception. They attempt to comfort me and people with experiences like mine by telling us that our loss is not what they seek to punish. They don’t care to understand that they’ve already caused us trauma. Rather than processing my experience like other parts of my healthcare under the guidance of professionals, the opinions and beliefs of strangers harmfully shaped the way I viewed my experience. Because we are a nation of laws–and a nation of lawsuits–restrictions on abortions create a disconnect. When doctors risk legal trouble for performing and assisting in abortions, they must be able to prove the pregnancy loss was not by choice. In a situation as dire as mine, a delay in care could have killed me. If I happened to be one of the 80,000 women in Texas who give birth without prenatal care every year, they would have no record of my loss. They would have to make a decision to either provide the care I needed or face the possibility of losing their medical license and facing jail time. Access to medications that induce an active abortive process when a pregnancy is not viable are also unavailable when restrictions are implemented. I have listened to countless stories like mine and heard of the traumatic experiences Texans have endured since our extremist-led state legislature started overreaching into decisions that should have remained between a pregnant person and their doctor.
I have no interest in debating abortion with anyone. Abortion is healthcare. We know the arguments. They are moot because we are not forcing someone who is anti-abortion to have an abortion. This should be where the arguments end.
I know a lot of anti-choice Republicans who have had abortions, paid for abortions of people they have impregnated, or suggested abortion to people in their spheres. Many of them loudly voice their anti-choice views while not disclosing their hypocritical actions. They recognize this is personal when it applies to themselves yet they still try to control the personal decisions of others.
When abortion is restricted in Texas, it put the lives of people with unsafe pregnancies at risk. We cannot afford to lose our rights when our system is already so broken. Our maternal mortality rate was among the worst in the nation even before the restrictions began. Our foster care system is overrun and underfunded as it stands. Our child hunger is also among the highest in the country. Furthermore, our prenatal care rate is one of the lowest because the GOP-led Texas leadership declined Medicaid expansion in an act of political gamesmanship.
Anti-choice legislation has consequences greater than what might be expected from the outset, but those consequences should always be part of what’s considered. In fact, unintended consequences are what have made some of my staunchest anti-choice friends change their minds.
It’s vital that we remind the folks comforted by the assurance that this is merely a federal vs. states rights issue, that notable Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell floated a federal ban on abortion should Republicans regain power. They’re strategically passing legislation in states across the country so they can overturn the will of the American people. Make no mistake. We are under siege, and the majority of Americans are under threat from the radical right. There’s no option to slow-walk this back. We must elect pro-choice, pro-equality Democrats who will move to strengthen protections of our rights in November.