Thursday, April 21, 2011 By: Unconditionally You

Why Abortion After 20 Weeks Should NOT be Illegal Across the Board (by Tamara via Melissa)

Yesterday during a discussion about the new laws passed in Oklahoma there was debate amongst some women I happened to be talking to about getting abortions after twenty weeks of gestation. Some were adamant that for no reason should you be able to. Some suggested there may be good medical reasons to have one done after twenty weeks. During the course of this discussion I heard the tragic story of a wonderful, courageous woman named Tamara. With her permission I am repeating the story here as I truly believe it is something we all need to hear when thinking about this topic. 
(if you are sensitive to things like abortion or child loss you may want to skip this blog post)

From Tamara directly as follows:

First of all, let me give you a little timeline that is not out of the ordinary at all. It's the one I went through almost three years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter who had Trisomy 18.

1. I had my AFP test done at 16 weeks. Two days later, I got a call from my doctor that it showed I had a one in ten chance of the baby having Trisomy 18.

2. By the time I got in for a level 2 ultrasound, I was almost 17 weeks. She was measuring behind at that time, so it was hard for them to see a whole lot. They thought she might have a cystic hygroma and a clubbed foot, but they weren't for sure. They recommended an amniocentesis because of it.

3. By the time I could do the amniocentesis because of the fact that the amniotic sac hadn't yet fused to the uterine lining, I was almost 18 weeks. They did that, and we went for the FISH results which come back in three to five days.

4. Because I had it done on a Friday, it was a Wednesday before the test results came back. It showed full Trisomy 18. I was almost 19 weeks.

5. My doctor recommended I not make any decisions until the full results came in. I was at 19.5 weeks when the full results came in, just a few short days away from 20 weeks.

So, that gives you a time line and shows you how long it can take to get a definitive diagnosis. Now, the rest of my story is pretty interesting, too. I am the face of what happens to women who have a medical problem when you limit abortions for social reasons.

My doctor had told me when we did the FISH results that I should be able to go to a hospital in Nashville to end the pregnancy through a labor and delivery abortion. She was wrong. The hospital there will no longer do it because of the political climate in the state. I thought I could go to an abortion clinic in the state. Again, I was wrong. Only two abortion clinics in Tennessee will do abortions past 14 weeks, and they will only do them to 16 weeks. My only other choice was to go to Atlanta, four hours and a whole state away.

So, we went. I felt like we were sneaking away to commit a crime, to do something illegal, when truly, the only thing I wanted to do was to keep my poor baby from suffering. They told me I would be eligible for a one day procedure and it would cost $1,500, which my parents gave us. We were assured we would be separated from the other women, the ones who were doing it for "social reasons." They were supposed to have in place a program to treat families like us in a special way.

Well, we get there that morning, and we aren't separated. My husband and I had to sit in a waiting room full of women who were terminating healthy pregnancies. I have always been pro-choice, but it was almost too much to take. Some were visibly upset, while others were clearly feeling relieved and happy. We waited for four hours in that miserable waiting room, being called back once to fill out paperwork, another time for me to be weighed and a third time for them to tell me they had made a mistake and I wasn't eligible for a  one day procedure. If I wanted to do it, I would have to come back at a later time.

They gave me an ultrasound that day to tell me how much it would cost to have it done the next week. This ultrasound showed that she had very little brain matter, a huge cystic hygroma, a clubbed foot and very little fluid around her, which indicated that her kidneys weren't working. We decided to go home and carry to term, although I did check around for my options in my state. I found one hospital that was still willing to do it in Tennessee, but you had to start out as the patient of one of their doctors and you had to go before their ethics board to state your case. Can you imagine having to do that when you already in pain over your child's diagnosis?

So, for each day that I carried her, I wondered if that was the day she was going to die. If I didn't feel her move, I wondered if she had died and I didn't know it. I felt like a walking coffin. People would congratulate me on my pregnancy and ask how it was going, and I didn't know what to say. My heart broke each time. I was scared for my family, for my then five year old, how she was going to take it if her much wanted and already much loved little sister was born alive and then died a few days later. I worried about my marriage, knowing many don't survive when a child dies. But mostly, I worried about the baby I carried and whether or not she was going to be in pain. I worried that if she was born alive that I would be able to do the right thing and offer only comfort care and not life-saving measures. I worried, day and night.

We didn't make it to full-term, and in some ways, I am extremely glad about that. I don't think I would have remained sane if we had. Her birth defects were worse than we had imagined. Her little skull hadn't formed correctly, and her head was mostly filled with fluid. Because of this, while she was being born, her head collapsed. It's not something a mother wants to imagine.

It will be three years in August since all of this happened. I am now doing all I can to fight these kinds of laws. I write letters, and in 2009, I even gave a speech in front of our legislature about it. I will be graduating next month with my degree in psychology and plan to pursue my masters in counseling and a graduate certificate in women's studies, because I know it will help me in my activist role.

To sum all of this up, when you limit abortions for social reasons, you also limit them for medical reasons. Also, I don't see how any woman can support these kinds of laws. Think about what you might be doing to yourself, to your daughters, to all the women out there when you do. 


I want to sincerely thank Tamara for allowing me to share her story.