When Hillary Clinton was asked about late-term abortions in the last debate, her response was both empathetic and impassioned.
The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who toward the end of their pregnancy get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.
Since then I’ve seen two very brave women write about the most personal and painful decision they’ve ever made in their lives. Because they’ve had the courage to speak up, I think the least we can do is listen and share their stories. Here is Alyson Draper:
I had to have a late term abortion. It was the worst moment in my life. What made it even worse was the State of Utah had made it illegal. I had one dead twin. The other had severe Spina Bifida, and would only have lived with life support, in great pain, for a few days.
I lay on the hospital floor, bawling hysterically, for twelve hours, waiting for an ethics committee of the health care corporation to decide my case justified what had to be done. My health was in danger due to the dead fetus. My husband and I consulted our LDS Bishop, who assured me I needed to do what I had to do, that it was even within LDS guidelines to do so. He reminded me I had six kids at home who needed their mother to live.
The abortion was terrible. It was done very gently, by Caesarean section, leaving the babies in their amniotic sacs. The living baby passed very quickly.
It was horrific. I think it even affected my dear physician, as he had never had to end a pregnancy before. I developed PTSD for which I had to be treated for years, mostly because of the fact I had to have it at all.
No woman should have to have the state have a say in the most painful decision she will ever make. Nobody is tearing babies apart in late term. They are always humanely done, only in situations where there is a non-viable or severely defective fetus and/or the mother’s health is at risk.
Please don’t vote for a candidate or a party that would make these decisions for the women who will die or be forced to carry unviable fetuses to term. This is a decision that is so painful and so terrible. Only the parents of the baby and a physician should be involved in the decision.
And here is Meredith Isakson’s story:
I was 21 weeks pregnant when a doctor told my husband and me that our second little boy was missing half his heart. It had stopped growing correctly around five weeks gestation, but the abnormality was not detectable until the 20-week anatomy scan. It was very unlikely that our baby would survive delivery, and if he did, he would ultimately need a heart transplant.
In the days that followed, after the poking and prodding, after the meetings with pediatric cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and geneticists, my husband and I decided to terminate our pregnancy. I was 22 weeks pregnant when they wheeled me into the operating room, two weeks shy of viability in the state of California.
For us, the decision was about compassion for our unborn baby, who would face overwhelming and horribly painful obstacles. Compassion for our 2-year-old son, who would contend with hours upon hours in a hospital, missing out on invaluable time spent with his parents, and the death of a very real sibling. It was about compassion for our marriage. Perhaps most important, it was about our belief that parenthood sometimes means we sacrifice our own dreams so our children don’t have to suffer.
As the day of my termination approached and I felt my baby’s kicks and wiggles, I simultaneously wanted to crawl out of my skin and suspend us together in time. I wanted him to know how important he was to me, that the well of my grief and love for him would stretch deeper and deeper into the vastness of our family’s small yet limitless life. He may have moved inside me for only five months, but he had touched and shaped me in ways I could never have imagined…
As the two-year anniversary of my abortion approaches, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that we made the right decision for our family — and that our government has absolutely no place in the anguish which accompanies a late-term abortion, except to ensure that women and their families have the right to make their choice safely and privately.
Saying goodbye to our boy was the single most difficult and profound experience of my life, and the truth is, it has come to define me. Today I am a better mother because of him. I am a better wife, daughter and friend. He made me more compassionate and more patient. He taught me to love with reckless abandon, despite the knowledge that I could lose it all.
We named him Lev, the Hebrew word for heart.
This is exactly what we mean when we say, “the personal is political.” As long as these women are merely objects defined by their wombs, it is easy to objectify them in order to demagogue this issue. But when you assume that they are actual human beings with the ability to both think and act compassionately, the difficulty of this decision and the courage they display in taking on an awesome responsibility shines through.