This is a story I rarely tell, but I think it is important to share.
About 21 years ago, my husband and I decided we were ready to start our family. We were in our late-twenties, working, married, and we had made a very conscious decision to wait to have children so that we could be financially stable and really ready for the next phase in our lives. After a few months, we got our positive test. Elated, our parenting plan was underway.
At my first ultrasound checkup, we were excited that to finally hear a heartbeat and maybe see the wiggling of the tiny peanut that was growing inside me. The doctor squirted the gel on my belly and started to move the magic wand all over. There was a pause. Something was wrong and my late-twenty-something self couldn’t fathom what problem there could be. This wasn’t part of the plan.
Sadly, we learned that there would be no heartbeat to hear. Due to genetic abnormalities, our first child was a miscarriage. It was the most devastating, heart-breaking thing that had happened to us, after the death of my father. Our parenting plan came to a screeching halt and I remember not being able to move or breathe when the doctor gave us the news. I remember sobbing, heaving in the parking lot with my husband. It did not seem possible. It wasn’t supposed to happen to us. That wasn’t part of the plan.
Right away, my doctor and I decided I should get a D&C to safely remove the cluster of cells from my uterus. I had no idea how or when my body would remove it on it’s own, but as far as my doctor was concerned, this procedure was the best course of action for my health, both mental and physical. It was an outpatient procedure, fairly simple and straight-forward, and it enabled me to go home, heal, and hope that we would be able to revive our parenting plan before long. Thankfully, a year later, and then four years later, we were blessed with the family we always dreamed of.
So many women are the unfortunate recipients of this kind of news. Even worse, sometimes that news is accompanied with the unfortunate complication of a fetus that can technically survive while in the mother’s body, but will not survive on the outside. Or the existence of that cluster of cells will almost certainly doom the mother’s existence. Or the manner in which those cells were implanted was violent, invasive and should never have happened in the first place.
With the overturning of Roe v Wade, women like me, or worse, women who have a much harder but necessary decision to make, may not have the appropriate medical procedures available to them. I fear for those that may be vilified, condemned even, for the cruel force of nature or the cruel force of others. Miscarriage, genetic abnormalities, violence and so many devastating and deadly issues happen, more often than we will ever know, because these are private matters. Women should not be made to suffer any more because of it; the trauma of the news they hear in the doctor’s office is more than enough. They should be able to make private medical decisions with their doctors and their families and process the grief in their own way, on their own time.
I don’t love the idea of abortion – it’s not a pleasant thought. I’d always rather promote life and health, especially of mothers and children. I honestly believe that most people think that way. However, there are situations where it is necessary. Maybe the overturning of Roe v. Wade was inevitable; maybe it’s what we needed as a country to galvanize and make something more permanent happen on a federal level.
I don’t begrudge people having strong feelings and beliefs against abortion. I wish it weren’t necessary, but life is complex with variables that we have to weather. I also cannot abide the beliefs of religious extremists inserting their narrow definition of morality in this country’s rule of law. Their opinions, no matter how honestly held, should not overshadow the decisions that I, or anyone else, can make about our private lives.
Next time, it could be you, a loved one, a friend, or a total stranger. Life is complicated and messy and a one-size-fits-all approach to abortion rights or any other right we hold dear is a mistake. In my experience, all I knew was that appropriate medical treatment available, accessible, and necessary for my overall health. I can’t imagine the further trauma I would have endured if it weren’t.
Listen to the stories of other women. Hear what they have to say before you judge them. Have compassion and empathy. Your moral compass may differ from theirs, but their life is just that – theirs, not yours. This is a women’s health issue, not a political or even a religious one. It’s for women and their doctors to decide what’s best.