My Turn: Ban on abortion care in New Hampshire would impact patients like me

For the Monitor
Published: 2/18/2021 9:52:36 AM

I am a veterinarian, a wife, and a mother of two children from Maine. I helped the U.S. win a gold medal at the 2002 World Championships in rowing. I am also someone who has had an abortion later in pregnancy.

Earlier this month, I shared my story at a hearing in opposition to the recent slate of anti-abortion bills that have been introduced into New Hampshire’s Legislature this session. Why would someone from Maine dip her toes into New Hampshire’s legislative business? Because when people in your own community say terrible, misinformed things about abortion seekers, it feels unsafe to tell them your story. So I suppose that I feel compelled to share my own story in solidarity, as a fellow New Englander.

Late in my second pregnancy, our baby was abruptly diagnosed with a lethal form of skeletal dysplasia, a bone growth condition that occurs due to a random genetic mutation. There are over 450 skeletal dysplasias, and only some are lethal in the prenatal period. Those that are lethal result in babies that cannot breathe outside of the womb. We were heartbroken.

I remember apologizing to the doctor for my uncontrollable sobbing. And I will always remember her reply: “Oh no, this is really bad. This never happens, but it is happening, and it is really bad, and it is totally appropriate for you to be very upset.”

After discussing our options, my husband and I decided that ending the pregnancy, while obviously tragic, was the best possible way to care for our son. I had assumed that I’d be admitted to the hospital that day, or maybe the next. We just needed to know the plan.

But because abortion care later in pregnancy is so stigmatized, the plan meant being referred to one of the few last-stop abortion providers in the country. It meant having to travel far from home. It is hard to put into words how that realization broke me. On top of losing my pregnancy, I had been judged and seemingly deemed unfit for care in my home state.

We flew to Colorado, and over the next four days I was cared for by the kind people at Boulder Abortion Clinic. I was able to clear the hurdles and get the care I needed, and go on to have another healthy pregnancy.

However, I fear for others if they are unable to afford care. My abortion cost $25,000. Cash. And that doesn’t include the cost of time off of work, last-minute airline tickets, a hotel, child care for our daughter, and incidentals.

I am grateful that I could get care, but it has been profoundly distressing to know that I am one of the lucky ones. I know that the majority of people in my state or in New Hampshire would not be able to afford the treatment I received. The most marginalized and under-resourced members of New Hampshire’s communities will bear the brunt of the proposed bans, as they have in other states like Texas and Georgia.

I believe people are misinformed about what abortion bans actually do and why politicians are proposing them.

After I shared my story with New Hampshire lawmakers, a woman testified in support of these bans. Despite never having met me, she said that my story could not have been true. Her sister had also received a poor fetal diagnosis. She chose to carry to term and they had a few hours together before her baby passed away.

This was her choice, and I support that choice. I would not want that taken away from her. But one of the bills in this raft of anti-choice legislation is a so-called “born alive” propaganda bill.

Bills like these would require doctors to take babies born dying out of their parents’ arms and force invasive, futile measures in an effort to save a life that can’t be saved. Those last moments that were so precious to her might be taken away from someone else. All so politicians can score points with anti-abortion voters.

These bills don’t help anyone. They take the liberty of making deeply personal, life-altering decisions out of our hands.

I am not mad at the woman who called me a liar after hearing my personal story. I am sad and frustrated that we are on different sides of a political divide when we have so much in common. Both of us know firsthand how complicated pregnancy can be. I am sure we both want to be able to make the best decisions we can for our families. And surely no one needs politicians making those decisions for us.

(Dana Peirce lives in Yarmouth, Maine.)

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