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My Abortion & When I Used Planned Parenthood

I don't post much political stuff on this blog or even on Facebook. I figure, people have political opinions based on their own values and their own experiences, and reading someone else's will rarely change anything. I am, however, deeply disturbed by the way a particular issue is playing out in American politics right now, and so in addition to this blog post, I am sending letters and photographs to all of my elected officials to ask them to consider all angles of a topic rather than listening to one very vocal group who views all abortions as pure evil.

First, I have been a patient of Planned Parenthood in the past. As an uninsured college student and even un- and under-insured newlywed in my early 20s, a trip to the gynecologist for an annual exam plus a monthly prescription for birth control would have been far outside my financial means as I worked (sometimes part-time, often full-time) while going to school. Planned Parenthood's sliding fee scale meant I could have a complete physical exam, including breast, pelvic, and pap, for about $10. I also could get birth control pills for about $7 per month, instead of $40+ out of pocket at the pharmacy (these are late 1990s, early 2000s prices; I'm sure far higher now). When I became pregnant with my second child, Truman, we were without health insurance because David had lost his job and we made "too much money" (ha!) for Medicaid, so I was able to have my very first prenatal appointment at Planned Parenthood. No one ever offered me an abortion or made me feel like that was a good option for me. They simply answered my questions and provided what I needed.

I believe my personal experience with Planned Parenthood is similar to what many women have - it is a health care resource. Yes, some locations do offer abortions. Not the one here in Indiana where I went, nor do the ones in many other states. Abortion is only legal in certain places under certain conditions. Additionally, any federal funding Planned Parenthood receives is federally protected from being used to fund abortions. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds being used for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother.

Then, years after my need for Planned Parenthood had passed, I did find myself in need of an abortion. No one wants to call it that, but medically, that is what it is called (both by hospitals and by insurance companies) when a pregnancy is mechanically or medicinally terminated.
Bills from my OB/GYN for my 'abortion,' and from my GP for my severe anxiety because of 'retention of dead fetus'

My body did not realize what had happened, which is pretty common with miscarriage or stillbirth at any stage of pregnancy. Sometimes, in early weeks, bleeding will start and the embryo/fetus will pass without any intervention, but more often it seems, a D&C procedure is required up until a certain gestational age; beyond then, a D&C is too dangerous and the fetus must be passed by administration of medications that cause powerful contractions. That was the case for us, with Desmond. At nearly five months' gestation he was too large for a D&C, which I am glad of anyway because I got to see and hold and smell his little body instead of being unconscious while he was taken out of me.

But, in any case, I had an abortion.

I loved that baby. I wanted him. Even nearly nine months later, I cry every day. Every. Single. Day. I am mostly able to function, but I still cry. I still cringe to see small baby boys. I still ache in my arms to hold him. But he was aborted. He died. But he was, in a legal sense, aborted. And in a legal sense, those who oppose all abortions would want me to have to carry his dead body inside of mine until I was full term.

This happened to my aunt. I wasn't born yet, my mother was a girl, but she recalls that her aunt was told her baby had died. At that time, it was completely illegal to perform abortions, even abortions for babies who had died, so she had to carry his body in hers for several months until such a time as, legally, she could deliver him.

Aside from the psychological impact of knowing you are carrying a dead baby, there is the very disturbing practical aspect as well. Desmond had been dead only a few days when I delivered him; all of his body parts were attached and he more or less looked like an extremely tiny newborn baby, albeit with red skin instead of thick, fatty flesh like normal newborns have. The longer a deceased fetus stays inside its mother, the more nature takes over - human bodies decay rapidly. Even within hours of delivering Desmond, his color went to darker red, almost black; his body began 'weeping' as the nurses put it - a polite way to say fluids were oozing out of him. He became very cold. 

These are hard things for me to put into words and I know they are hard things for anyone to read, but I feel passionately that as we seek to protect the unborn, we remember that there are women who have already been born who need to be protected as well. They deserve affordable health care. And if their sweet babies die, they deserve to make an informed decision with their doctor as to when to induce labor - abort, if you will - so they may have a chance of at least a few minutes with their precious little babies as intact and as beautiful as they can possibly be.


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