I am 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant today. I get tired after strenuous activities such as grocery shopping and getting out of a car. I am overwhelmed by all of the preparations necessary to make my home safe and habitable for an infant.
Truth be told, I’ve been uncomfortable since day one. My first trimester was marked by extreme exhaustion and nausea. My second trimester was all about enormous, sore breasts and a growing belly. And now, back to exhaustion, plus back pain, inability to bend or move gracefully, the list goes on. I’m not one of those moms who will proclaim to have loved every minute of pregnancy. But I am so happy to be having a child. My first baby. A teeny-tiny human being that my husband and I manufactured and will raise together.
So then why am I spending so much time thinking about access to abortion?
Probably because I have always known that if something went wrong during my pregnancy, I would have to make the gut-wrenching decision to terminate it. And now there are people out there who would make it harder for me to do that. Not doctors or scientists. Not even people who are seeking advice from doctors or scientists. People with an agenda that is not supported by medical professionals or researchers. Attempts to impose a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation are underway. The suggestion is that the fetus is developed enough to feel pain at this point, a noble enough claim, but one that is not supported by most doctors or scientists.
What doctors and scientists do tell us is that a fetal anomaly scan should be performed at between 18 and 20 weeks after gestation. This means that a woman who discovers an abnormality will have a very narrow window of time to decide how she wants to proceed and to terminate her pregnancy if she decides to, especially as federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides prenatal services to pregnant women, is under attack, reducing the number of clinics in some states and making it harder to schedule these vitally important scans.
As if this isn’t problematic enough, a policy requiring health insurers to cover the cost of birth control has been rolled back by the current administration, allowing employers to declare themselves exempt from this mandate if they feel ethically opposed to the use of birth control. Additionally, sexual education is not always available to students, may not be comprehensive enough to help prevent unplanned pregnancies, or may focus entirely on abstinence.
I feel like I need to clarify: My baby is wanted. She was conceived by two consenting and loving adults who are both excited to meet her. If she had been conceived out of violence, rape, or incest, would I want to carry her to term? What if I was not in a position to care for her financially or otherwise?
My baby is, by all accounts, healthy. I have had access to wonderful prenatal care and genetic testing, and multiple ultrasound screens indicate that she has no detectable abnormalities. I don’t know if I could care for an infant with a genetic disorder like Tay-Sachs disease (members of my family are carriers), for example. Especially now, with access to affordable health care being eroded, I know that many families, my own included, would not be able to sufficiently care for a child who needed expensive medical care.
I’m healthy. I’m not worried that childbirth will endanger my life. I have access to excellent doctors and an excellent hospital. I have insurance that makes it possible for me to afford the care that I need. But my feelings about carrying this baby to term would be much different if it would endanger my life, disable me, or make my husband a single father.
I know this is a controversial topic. I know that there are a lot of people who disagree with me. I’m okay with that. I feel so strongly that we should all able to to make choices about our own bodies and reproductive rights, and I’m always willing to have a civil conversation on the topic. But removing our access to education, affordable birth control and prenatal care, and finally to abortion does not leave us many options. We, women, are educated, hard-working, taxpaying, voting citizens. We are raising the next generation of workers, taxpayers, and voters. We deserve better than to have decisions about our own bodies made for us.