Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Birth VS Choice Divide: When loving people means making space for choices you don't like.

I've seen a lot of posts flying around, on both sides of the abortion issue. Rachel Held Evans posted a particularly compelling piece back in August that I recommend if you're of a conservative bent and open to some food for thought.

This morning I saw two posts that threw the whole debate into very stark contrast for me. One from a woman who was pregnant with a single child when something went terribly wrong, and the amniotic sac was partially through the cervix when she arrived at the hospital. Because of the laws in her state, she was repeatedly sent home over the next four days, even after she started bleeding, because the baby was technically viable, had a heartbeat, and termination was not permitted for any reason. There was nothing the doctors could do. Her child was loved, named, wanted. And could not survive. But because the law in her state does not allow a pregnancy to be terminated once there is a detectable heartbeat, she was forced to wait for four days, knowing that her baby was dying, at home, with no support but her equally devastated spouse, and when the inevitable finally came, it was that much more traumatic for the waiting.

The other post declared in strident terms that "late term abortions" don't exist. That abortion isn't necessary at all. That if a pregnancy is a threat to the mother, that's what c-sections are for. That all abortion should be banned, no exceptions, and that "ending a pregnancy" to save the life of a mother isn't an abortion at all. No mention of the myriad real life accounts of women being forced to wait while committees debate and courts decide. No mention of rape. No mention of incest. No allowances for mothers who had birth control or sterilization procedures that failed, who have abusive partners or simply cannot afford children. No mention of the struggles that will be forced upon those mothers by a culture and a government that cares only for a child born, and scorns anyone who needs help supporting that child later on. No mention of the hundreds of thousands of children waiting in our adoption and foster care system for families. 
It was purportedly written by an obstetrician. And it was written with so much scorn, such an utter lack of understanding that I cannot imagine anyone who has ever worked with pregnant mothers being so completely devoid of compassion. 

My heart hurts right now, for the women I know who have had to choose between their own life and the life of their wanted, planned-for child. Or had to choose between a short life filled with immeasurable pain for that child, or peace. The women who are being told that the brutal choice they had to make doesn't count as an abortion. Or that it does count, and they should have taken the chance of dying or letting their baby suffer and left it up to God, that they are murderers. The women who know intimately what it is to know that their baby is dying inside them, that their child cannot survive, that when the baby goes it may very well take mom along with it. What it is to be turned away from the hospital, sent home to await the end with no support because the laws in their state don't allow a "viable" pregnancy to be terminated for any reason. Or having to wait in the hospital while some faceless ethics committee they will never see passes judgment on their situation. 

The laws are written by people who have never, likely will never face that choice. Who decide in comfort and safety, without understanding the distinctions and situations they are playing with, what a mother can do to save herself, or save her child from a life that can't be lived. That is the horror that late term abortion bans force on women. Having the ability to accept pain for themselves to save their child from ever hurting taken away, and put in the hands of strangers.

It's a devastating choice I hope I never have to face, but I know that if I ever do face it, I want me, my husband, and my doctor to be the only people involved in that decision. And honestly, I hope I'm strong enough to choose to live, for the children I have at home. I hope I'm strong enough to choose to return that innocent soul to an existence without pain, rather than force them to suffer to save myself guilt. Just like I hope that if I am ever faced with having to turn off the life-support for a child who is so damaged that they will never draw another pain-free breath, and they are unable to decide for themselves, that I would have the strength to let that child go too. 

Ending a wanted pregnancy to save the mother's life, or to spare the child pain that can't be fixed or made better, these are choices no one should ever face. But some have to face it, and it's hard enough already. It doesn't need to be made harder by having their last shreds of control stripped away by politicians who don't understand how the laws they craft will endanger the women those laws affect, and care nothing for that child once it has slipped from the womb.

These aren't just stories on the internet to me. I know women who have been faced with that choice. I see how they struggle for the rest of their lives with the guilt, the shame, the aching never-ending loss. And I hurt for them, as they watch yet another round of pro-birth rhetoric threaten the already shaky ground they stand on. I watch their fear, as Roe Vs. Wade is threatened, as infanticide laws are used to arrest mothers who miscarry and mothers who access legal abortion services, as laws requiring funerals for miscarriages become reality. I see their helpless rage when the same people who took their choices away on the most horrible day of their lives are  also the people who want to cut funding to social safety net programs that feed, clothe, house, and provide doctors for the children that women are made to bear against their wishes, beyond their ability to support. The same people who let our disgustingly ineffective adoption and foster care system go underfunded, understaffed, and plagued with abuse and corruption. The mothers who bleed over this are not strangers. They are friends. They are people I love. They are real. I see them. I hear them. And I can't in any sense of conscience vote to take their choices away.

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