Yesterday I gave a testimony before my State Senate in opposition of a bill that would make any pregnancy terminations beyond 20 weeks gestation illegal with the only exception being if the mother's life was in immediate danger. Did I ever expect to be speaking out against an abortion bill? No. Even though I am pro choice I'd rather not be involved with a subject with such controversy. But I think that mostly pregnancies where there is a shitty prenatal diagnosis will be impacted with this bill and it is such an awful time when you hear that your fetus is very unwell that removing options is NOT HELPFUL.
I don't talk about this much here because I don't want to receive a single hateful comment. It's one thing to say your opinion, and something entirely different to spew mean words just because you don't agree with the view of someone else. I can understand why a woman would choose to carry to term but I don't think it is the best choice for every fetus and every family.
Anyway... this post may not stay up long.
Testimony for Senate Bill, March 2011
Thank you for the time to tell you about my son today. My name is Anna M. and the following events took place in 2007. In that year I finished my Master’s degree, my husband and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary, we had already bought a 3-bedroom house with a big back yard, and we decided to start a family. It was a difficult pregnancy nearly from the start, but those were also some of the happiest months of my life. We already knew our baby was a little boy and we were beyond excited about the anatomy ultrasound to see images of him again and see how he was doing. The anatomy ultrasound at almost 19 weeks gestation showed that there was no amniotic fluid and the baby was very difficult to see. There are several causes of absent amniotic fluid and in my son’s case it was due bilateral renal agenesis, which means his kidney’s did not develop. He was also missing his stomach and bladder. Amniotic fluid is necessary for the development of the baby’s lungs and the absence of it leads to a constellation of physical features known as Potter’s syndrome. Because the baby is not cushioned by amniotic fluid the mother’s organs press on the growing fetus causing physical deformities including abnormal limb growth and flattened facial features. This is a fatal condition and babies that survive the pregnancy and delivery will die of respiratory failure once they are born.
The doctors had to explain the diagnosis over and over to me because it was so hard for me to accept that they were describing my child. My husband and I had spent years preparing for a family and months bonding with this baby. Our family members were already in love with this baby. We wondered if he would be musically talented like his dad or interested in science like me. His nursery would be decorated with a jungle theme and he would have dinosaur pajamas. We were going to breastfeed for as long as possible and learn baby sign language. There are not words to describe how hard it is to switch from planning for your baby’s future to the reality that he cannot live.
Immediately there were choices to be considered about how the pregnancy should proceed from that point. It is definitely surreal to be weighing the pros and cons of the terms of your own child’s death. One good way to describe it is having to make a decision when there are no good outcomes no matter what option is selected. When considering continuing the pregnancy, I could not imagine how I would ever leave the house or face anyone knowing that my baby was going to die. I didn’t know how I would be able to answer innocent questions about my pregnancy without weeping and health wise, it would be safer for me to deliver early. My husband stopped touching my stomach, trying to distance himself from his son and trying to ignore his grief. But the most important factor in deciding to terminate the pregnancy was that I didn’t want my son’s life to be spent in an environment that was so cramped that his body grew deformed and he couldn’t move around, only to suffocate upon birth. My son was not going to live, regardless of when he was born, and as his parents, my husband and I had to consider the quality of his short life.
Legislation restricting all pregnancy terminations after 20 weeks gestation, except when the mother’s life is in danger, ignores the families where a fetus tragically receives an adverse prenatal diagnosis. Many serious conditions are discovered at the anatomy ultrasound which happens around 20 weeks gestation and it can take several weeks to get further testing so it is not unusual for women to pass the 20 week mark before a final diagnosis is made. And importantly, some time is needed to make an informed decision regarding continuing or terminating the pregnancy. Carrying to term is not in the best interest of all women and their families for a variety of physical and mental health reasons. Additionally, carrying to term can mean that the fetus suffers for a longer period of time and has a more traumatic death. Please keep these families in mind when considering legislation with so many restrictions.