I am sharing an experience that I had over 30 years ago. The entire experience was so traumatic that I have rarely talked about it. Brave women and men who voted down draconian anti-choice measures in #KansasVote gave me courage to share my story.
Some time into my marriage, when I realized I was pregnant, I was ecstatic. However, after only a month of finding it out, my husband lost his job and moved from Cincinnati to Minneapolis. It fell upon me to close down the house, pack up our stuff, send the movers and then fly to Minneapolis. Two days prior to flying out to Minneapolis, I went for a routine checkup and was informed by my gynecologist that the fetus had a very faint heartbeat and was not going to survive. He strongly advised me to not travel in that condition and in fact he suggested that I have an immediate D&C procedure and terminate the pregnancy. I kept asking him, are you sure, but what if you are wrong, should we do one more exam, do I need to get a second opinion? And he answered patiently but clearly that I was likely to abort this fetus anytime and it could create a life threatening emergency situation and I should abort the fetus. I was alone and did not have anyone who could help me. College was over, many students were gone home. My husband and I had recently moved from the dorm where we lived to our new house, far in the suburbs and I could not think of anyone who could help me.
I contacted one friend who also graduated with doctorate, with me and requested her to drive me a day later to the doctor. She agreed. However, that night she called me to say that her boyfriend invited her to go on an outing and she could not take me to the doctor. I literally had no one to take me to the emergency D&C procedure. There were no Ubers in those days. During my studies, I worked as a career counselor. After much thought, I contacted one woman who had come to me for career guidance and was very impressed with me. She was a prominent doctor’s wife who had been out of career life and now that her children were grown and busy in their own lives, she wanted to jumpstart her career and take some courses at the university.
I called Mrs. doctor and shared my situation with her and also told her that the day after this D&C procedure I was to fly to Minneapolis. She said, she will call back in a few minutes. She soon called me and said “ Tomorrow morning, pack a small bag and be ready. I have a class but my husband is off. So he will pick you up and take you to the hospital. He can hang out in his office while you go through the procedure and then he will bring you to our home. There is no point for you to go to your empty house. Just come here after the procedure and rest and next day, I will drop you at the airport for your flight to Minneapolis”. I was enormously grateful to her.
I wanted this child so much that the rest of the day I talked to my baby and I cried. I was going through this ordeal totally alone and I survived because of the help of strangers.
Well, that was what happened so many years ago, in the reddest of the red state of Ohio. However, TODAY if I was in Texas or Idaho or Georgia or any of the red states in the USA and was in a similar predicament then what would be my fate?
First, I would not have anyone to help me, even take me to the doctor. And I mean, NO ONE. I could not ask anyone to help in all fairness because ANYONE WHO WOULD JUST GIVE ME A RIDE WOULD FACE PROSECUTION, JAIL, & FINES. Even an Uber driver couldn’t be asked. If my doctor friend was to take me then he would lose his license. From several states, I would not be allowed to travel when pregnant in this condition. I would literally have to wait at home until the process of abortion started on its own. Let us say that the bleeding began. Then I would summon an ambulance and eventually face huge ambulance bills for them to drive me to the hospital. In the hospital, in several states, the medical staff would be required to watch helplessly as my body tried to abort the fetus and as I would be writhing in pain for no good reason. In some cases, the doctor may give medication to induce delivery, but even then I would be required to go through intense labor pains as my body tried to abort the fetus, as long as there was even the faintest heartbeat. There was a case where a woman took 10 days to abort an ectopic pregnancy (which is always non-viable) and the staff cannot intervene to speed the process. Her doctor said, we helplessly watched her get sicker and sicker and waited until the fetal heartbeat stopped. In the end, the patient required surgery, lost a huge amount of blood and had to be put on a breathing machine. And medical staff knew from the start that this was a non viable pregnancy and 15 minute procedure would do the job for the same end result.
Let us say the hospital staff would intervene on the justification that the fetus was dying and this procedure was necessary to save mine (mother’s) life. Perhaps in some states, they could. BUT, they can still be sued and they would have to spend their time and resources fighting the charges against them. Attorneys in many hospitals are advising hospital staff to not intervene, no matter what, until the fetal heartbeat stops. In case of some large hospitals, if the medical staff intervenes to save the life of the mother and if they win later in the court, then the charges would be dismissed, BUT they would still be out of pocket for the legal fees. There is no reimbursement for them. ON THE OTHER HAND, IF THEY LOST FOR ANY REASON, and if the people suing can make an argument that death is not in our hands and we should just let things play out then anyone trying to help me would have to reimburse them for attorney fees and ALSO pay $10,000 on top in penalties. Let us not forget that the hospitals would pass on these costs to us, the consumers and we will pay more, while we suffer more and get lesser care for our second tier citizens, the women.
THESE ARE THE LAWS ON THE BALLOT IN MANY STATES, THAT HAVE THE POWER TO DRAG WOMEN TO SECOND CLASS CITIZENSHIP STATUS. With these laws, women will be less safe, less healthy, get lesser quality of care, will likely suffer more pain, will pay more dollars for healthcare, can get criminal record, can jeopardize a family member or a good Samaritan trying to help and in the end, healthcare for us all will likely suffer and we all will likely pay more for less care. I am much relieved that I am not in my child bearing years. But I enjoy many freedoms and economic prosperity because women who came ahead of me and men who envisioned gender equality, fought and stood up for these principles. Are we going to stay silent now OR will we speak up and stand up for the women who will follow us; our daughters, nieces, daughters in law, grand daughters? Let us vote for choice and trust that the hands that rock the cradle are emotionally stronger and mentally more capable to make right decisions for their bodies than the hands that bang the gavel.