Lawmakers need a reality check

Before lawmakers set blazes with their torches or run women out of the state with their pitchforks, they need to consider why late-term abortion exists.

I had a late-term abortion. A routine ultrasound midway through the pregnancy showed significant and multiple neural tube defects.

The worst was anencephaly, which is an absence of brain, skull and scalp. It happens in about 1,300 pregnancies each year in the U.S., and is always a death sentence.

I won’t rehash my personal story here, since I’ve written and spoken extensively about it in the past. What I most want to convey, what I want readers and lawmakers to truly understand, is that because late-term abortion was an option, our family was given an opportunity to have other, healthy children.

A piece of legislation before the General Assembly, Senate File 53, would outlaw abortion procedures following the 20th week of pregnancy. Applied to my situation, this bill would have forced our family to continue a pregnancy that had no hope. Even when additional complications indicated that my pregnancy would not reach term, placing my future reproductive health at risk, this bill would have prevented my doctor from taking action.

The Iowa State Capitol building is reflected in the windows of the Wallace State Office building in Des Moines on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Iowa State Capitol building is reflected in the windows of the Wallace State Office building in Des Moines on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Despite its early language discussing the state’s interest in assuring maternal health and life, this bill places women at risk. It provides exceptions only in the most dire and immediate circumstances.

The bill specifically states two scenarios under which a doctor could waive the law and perform an abortion after 20 weeks. The first is a medical emergency, which is otherwise undefined. The second is if “it is necessary to preserve the life of the unborn child.”

To someone who has been in the hellish position of knowing all options lead to the death of a child already loved and wanted, this bill adds insult to injury. It relies on a false narrative that women seeking late-term abortions are promiscuous heathens, either too ignorant to avoid pregnancy or too lazy to obtain earlier termination.

Maybe they are on drugs or suicidal? Even if they are, let them die and take the child we aim to protect with them.

Maybe the fetus has a non-viable condition? She knew it was a possibility. Let her give birth to a stillborn or watch as it suffers and dies.

Too blunt? Well, that’s the reality and morality of this bill. It was written and is supported by people so against abortion that they can’t peel back their own piousness to examine their misconceptions.

Less than one-percent of all abortions are late-term. Women aren’t deciding to end a pregnancy because they are disappointed by their child’s gender, or because they are just tired of being pregnant.

Women, like me, choose late-term abortion when it is the least horrific option. It is a decision enveloped in grief, even when there is no doubt that it is the right choice for our families, present and future.

Lawmakers considering support of this bill need to decide if they are willing to look in my eyes and tell me I must continue a pregnancy that will never result in a living child. And, if so, whether they are ready to have other lawmakers tell them or their sister or daughter the same.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on March 4, 2017. Photo credit: Stephen Mally/The Gazette