I was born in Oklahoma, and I have made my grown-up home in Illinois. However, between the very formative ages of 2 and 19, I lived in Texas and so I will always consider Texas to be “home”. In about 6 years, I will have lived in IL for as long as I lived in Texas, though I am not sure it will ever feel the same way. I can still picture the wildflowers in my mind. Highway medians and grassy slopes painted in orange and purple. I can feel the August heat on my skin. I remember the way it feels to dip your feet in a Texas lake, when it has been warmed day and night by the summer sun. Quite different than the frigid (but beautiful) gargantuan lake that I am nearest to these days. My love for Texas is a purely geographical one however, since I stick out like a political sore thumb in my very much “red” home state.
In fact, if we lived in Texas, our experience with Clara would have been even more difficult, something hard to imagine. This is because Texas is one of several states which currently bans abortion after 20 weeks. The thought here is that, by 20 weeks, a woman should have already “decided” to have her baby or not. *deep breath* This line of thinking is so wildly misguided that it makes my head spin. I’m not going to break down all the reasons that I believe a woman has a right to choose, today at least, and instead I will focus on what happened to me.
I decided to have my baby. I decided to have my baby before I was even pregnant, because my baby was an on-purpose baby. My baby was very much wanted. I went to the doctor appointments, watched the ultrasounds with bated breath and even bought a home fetal heart monitor because I was just so excited about this baby. At around 20 weeks, a woman with a routine pregnancy will undergo her anatomy scan. This scan is done specifically around the 20 week mark because that is the best and earliest time to check for very important anatomical development milestones and defects. It is also at this ultrasound where a woman usually finds out whether or not her baby is a boy or a girl, if she chooses to find out. We had our 20 week ultrasound right on time and were delighted to discover that we were having a girl. Our first daughter. We had exactly 3 days to dream about what it would be like to have a little girl, before we got the call. They found something and we needed to do a follow up, more detailed, ultrasound. Sick with fear and panic, I immediately called the high risk OB to schedule, but was unable to do so right away because well, insurance in America (we can get into this another time, I just don’t have it in me today). So, I had to wait for a bunch of yahoos who don’t know me from Joe to unwrap my future from all the red tape that they had wound around it, before I could even schedule the appointment for the follow up ultrasound. I think it took 2 days. On the 3rd day, approved referral in hand, I called the high risk OB that we’d been sent to, and scheduled ourselves for the following Monday (which was the earliest they could get me in – ugh). This would be a total of 6 days after the phone call, 9 days after the initial anatomy scan. I was now 21 weeks pregnant. In case you aren’t paying attention to the dates, that’s already too late for a Texan to receive an abortion, and I hadn’t even gotten my diagnosis yet. At the high risk OB appointment, we received the devastating Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele diagnosis, which you have probably already read about. If not, you can read that story here.
Now that we had a diagnosis, we had to learn. We had to soul search. It took us several days of crying, reading, talking and calling the doctor with questions before we landed on the decision that was best for our daughter, and our family. From there, it was going to take us another week or so to get our surgical abortion approved by insurance and scheduled. Unable to bear the torture any longer, we decided to schedule our procedure without waiting for insurance, and hoped that they would cover the claim later (they did, since our diagnosis was considered a lethal fetal anomaly). Even without waiting for insurance, we had to wait 4 days before we could get an appointment at the clinic, to begin the 3 day procedure. With no laziness or procrastination on our part, it took us 2 weeks from the initial anatomy scan where an anomaly was found to Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele diagnosis, to our eventual abortion. I was 22 weeks pregnant.
Due to the way a fetus develops, an anatomy scan cannot be performed with reliability much earlier than 20 weeks (some doctors will give this a 1 week swing on either side). When states put restrictions on abortion at or before the 20 week mark, they do not discourage women from ending unwanted pregnancies. Instead, they add hurdles and burdens to women ending a pregnancy for medical reasons. If we lived in Texas, we would have needed to travel out of state for our procedure. I am sure I don’t need to break down how awful that would have been emotionally, not to mention it is not ideal/medically advisable for a woman to travel and be unable to return immediately home after an outpatient surgical procedure.
In my current home state of Illinois, abortions are banned after 24 weeks. This is not much better than Texas, to be honest, but it was enough for us to be able to stay in state (though we did have to drive almost an hour there and back, 3 days in a row).
Today was going to be a simple post, an ode to the big skies and wildflowers of Texas, but as I wrote, I realized that I had bigger things to say about my beloved Lone Star State. I understand that abortion is a touchy issue. I do not expect us all to agree. However, what I hope is that people will listen, and understand that there are more reasons for abortion than just unwanted pregnancy (though I firmly believe that bodily autonomy makes that an okay reason, too). There are many assumptions about abortion, and about the kind of women who have them.
Assumption is a dangerous thing.