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Excerpt: "These are the stories that make it clear - even to those with mixed personal views on abortion - that this legislation simply goes too far, and stands to do nothing but create more heartbreak for women in already tragic situations."

Pro-choice activists march in Washington. (photo: re/visionist)
Pro-choice activists march in Washington. (photo: re/visionist)



Lawmakers Pushing 20-Week Abortion Ban Block Painful Testimonies

By Angi Becker Stevens, RH Reality Check

12 June 12

 

hen she was pregnant with her second child, Jenni Lane of Ann Arbor, MI, was given a routine ultrasound at 18 weeks. Jenni, her husband, and their young daughter were delighted to learn they would be adding a baby boy to their family. But later that night, a phone call brought devastating news: the fetus Jenni was carrying suffered from a severe brain malformation.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Jenni visited specialists and genetic counselors to learn more about her son's condition. When she learned that he was unlikely to even survive full-term, Jenni made the painful decision to terminate her wanted pregnancy, a decision she understandably describes as "incredibly difficult, and so deeply sad." By the time her termination was scheduled, Jenni's pregnancy was in the 21st week.

If Michigan's extreme anti-abortion legislation - HB 5711, 5712, and 5713 - becomes law, women like Jenni will no longer be permitted to make such a decision. That's because the legislation would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks in Michigan, with no exception even for cases of severe fetal abnormality. Much like Danielle Deaver of Nebraska - where an identical ban on abortions after 20 weeks is already in place - Michigan women would be forced to continue pregnancies even in situations where there is no chance for the survival of a child, or to incur the cost and stress of travel to a state where abortions after 20 weeks remain legal.

As painful as the experience was, Jenni says that it "would have been much less bearable if the law had forced (her) to carry the doomed pregnancy to term." In a letter to the House Committee on Health Policy, she stated:

"I don't like to think how I might have felt waiting to lose Robert, with people smiling at my pregnant body and holding doors open for me, while I grieved privately."

Experiences such as Jenni's are sadly not uncommon; the vast majority of later abortions are performed for similar medical reasons, because so many serious conditions are impossible to detect until near or after the 20-week point. Far from being an exception to the rule, nearly all of the women affected by a ban on abortions after 20 weeks will be women just like Jenni, who are making the excruciating choice to end a wanted pregnancy in which the fetus cannot possibly survive.

Fortunately, after her loss, Jenni went on to have a healthy, normal pregnancy; her younger daughter celebrated her fifth birthday late last year. And she is grateful that her access to safe, quality, legal health care did not interfere with her ability to have a subsequent healthy pregnancy and delivery. But if HB 5711 passes into law, such safe, legal care in Michigan may soon be a thing of the past. In addition to its ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, the legislation would also impose a multitude of restrictions on providers and clinics, likely forcing many to close their doors, and placing safe abortion care out of reach in even the earliest stages of pregnancy.

Jenni was unable to attend the Michigan House committee meeting on HB 5711-13 Thursday morning, but many other women with similar stories did attend, only to be blocked from testifying. Republican lawmakers in Michigan don't want people to hear stories like Jenni's: stories that poke a gaping hole into their claim to be concerned about the best interest of women, stories that conflict with their desire to paint all abortion-seeking women as heartless and irresponsible. These are the stories that make it clear -even to those with mixed personal views on abortion - that this legislation simply goes too far, and stands to do nothing but create more heartbreak for women in already tragic situations.

In blocking testimony from women about their experiences, Michigan lawmakers have gone beyond simply ignoring the needs of real women, and are instead actively seeking to silence women's voices. It is often said that male lawmakers don't care about women's health because they are not directly affected by such issues. But in light of such harsh legislation, that assessment seems far too generous. We need to recognize these attacks for what they are: a deliberate effort to undermine the well-being and lives of women.

In the evening following the House committee's favorable recommendation of HB 5711-13, Jenni Lane offered these thoughts about our legislators' shameful behavior:

"I feel so angry and so deeply sad that legislators supporting these bills are willfully ignoring stories like mine. It's unconscionable, because women's lives and health are at stake, and the expertise of medical providers is undermined and ignored. I have been tentative about that phrase that is used right now, the ‘war on women,' because it sounds too much like polarizing rhetoric. But today, my own personal hurt and anger does make me feel attacked. When people in positions of power abuse it to implement policies that have devastating effects on other people, it's aggressive and adversarial. But when these legislators simply will not hear from those who they disagree with, it feels ‘un-American,' and fundamentally wrong."

These legislators may be able to block women's testimony at the capitol to protect their own agenda, but they cannot silence us completely. As long as women like Jenni are willing to speak out and bravely share their stories, we all have a responsibility to make certain those stories are heard. The people of Michigan are smart enough to realize that prolonging pregnancies that can only end tragically does not protect the interest of women or families. It is a practice that would protect only the interests of those in power. And that is not democracy in action.

 

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+35 # Peacedragon 2012-06-12 09:15
Those men must have known they were doing evil when they refused to hear the women speak.
 
 
+16 # bluepilgrim 2012-06-12 10:33
Yes. Demons and other such creatures from the underworld know they are evil.

It's shame so many people don't know it.
 
 
+23 # Adoregon 2012-06-12 12:02
My 50 cents:

If you are male and thus are never going to be pregnant, you should have no standing, either as a legislator or private citizen, to be part of the discussion about ending a pregnancy.

Pregnancy is the quintessential capacity of females. Men should gracefully bow out of the argument. For the men who will not leave this to women, women would do well to avoid those men... in every way, including sexually.

C'mon women, use your power as gatekeepers of your own sexual apparatus. Don't sleep with troglodytes.
 
 
+25 # MEBrowning 2012-06-12 10:41
Jenni is right: Across the country, Republican lawmakers are becoming fundamentally unAmerican.
 
 
+17 # angelfish 2012-06-12 10:58
God knows these fools don't want to be confused by any FACTS! HOW do we get the ignorant, uninformed, don't WANT to be informed, OUT of our Political Arena?
 
 
+23 # cvahr2 2012-06-12 11:00
What in the h*ll is going on in this country?! How do Americans allow these blatant attempts at making women second class citizens again by controlling what women can and can't do with their bodies? I guess you can get away with anything when you hide behind religious righteousness.
 
 
+24 # ABen 2012-06-12 11:14
Decisions surrounding a woman's reproductive health issues are no one's business but hers and those she chooses to involve. This situation of state legislatures passing laws to severely limit or undermine a woman's right to make these decisions effectively give the state control and are certainly not part of a "small government" philosophy. I don't see how lawmakers (mostly male) can ethically ignore women's voices on this issue.
 
 
+13 # Lolanne 2012-06-12 11:40
Quoting ABen:
Decisions surrounding a woman's reproductive health issues are no one's business but hers and those she chooses to involve. This situation of state legislatures passing laws to severely limit or undermine a woman's right to make these decisions effectively give the state control and are certainly not part of a "small government" philosophy. I don't see how lawmakers (mostly male) can ethically ignore women's voices on this issue.


The key word there is "ethically," ABen. These males have no ethics. I do not dignify them by even calling them "men" since REAL men have a healthy respect and appreciation for women. No, these sorry excuses of the male gender are just ruthless power-grabbers who think we women should have no rights at all. I don't care what kind of smokescreen they hide behind...they can call themselves "christians", claim to be "pro-life" (that's a laugh - as soon as these forced pregnancies become real live infants, those same males get busy to make sure they have no support, no safety nets to help them grow up). No matter what they say, they are all lusting after power and control. There are no ethics and no morality involved at all.
 
 
+4 # AMLLLLL 2012-06-12 15:42
Lolanne, not to mention the life of the life-giver. They completely discount the rights of the woman involved. I think of any female attached to these troglodytes as 'the little woman'.
 
 
+1 # Regina 2012-06-13 12:00
Who says they're ethical? They're just out for power. The fact that they wave the cloak of religion around their dictates doesn't make them or their ideas ethical.
 
 
-16 # asbpab1966 2012-06-12 11:18
While I strongly oppose this legislation, the possibility of seeking an out-of-state abortion is not that expensive. How much could it cost to go by car or bus from Detroit to Buffalo, even by the longer all-USA route?
 
 
+15 # Texan 4 Peace 2012-06-12 12:41
What may be "not that expensive" for some is hopelessly out of reach for others. 87% of U.S. counties have NO abortion services whatsoever. Combine that with the number of states that now require waiting periods, and a woman would have to pay not only for the trip (and the abortion itself!), but for at least 2-3 days of food and lodging. And that's assuming she has 1) a car, 2) no other small children that require her daily care, 3) no job from which she can't get away for a few days, and 4) no one she has to hide this from (parents or abusive partner). Until you're in that position, you have no idea how difficult it is; meanwhile state keep throwing up more obstacles to women trying to access this essential service.
 
 
+2 # jwb110 2012-06-12 11:31
Just a suggestion but maybe the women in America should look into the herbal medicine to solve their problems. There is a long tradition in both Europe and the Americas for herbal solutions to their potential reproductive issues. If they do, then stock up before the GOP/TP make herbalism a capitol crime and ban the homeopathic medicines.
 
 
+12 # Glen 2012-06-12 11:32
Speaking out should not be left to women only. Men of conscience and dignity must also speak out, and forcefully when necessary. Men in power, but also a handful of women, often do respond to a protesting male voice when women are ignored. Sad fact.

There is plenty of evidence available that may be presented concerning abortion at any stage, and it is far too easy to verify the condition of both baby and mother to allow a dictatorial law to disallow that evidence. There are very few whimsical abortions, as these law makers would have you believe.
 
 
+3 # Torvus 2012-06-12 14:27
Republican lawmakers should try hard to learn from history. I'm sure they've got the time to do a little more reading and thinking? Where abortion is restricted or banned you have the makings of more criminals. EG You may remember the Romanian president Ceaucescu banned abortion during his rule. That country was doomed thereafter (as was Ceaucescu).
 
 
+4 # Doll 2012-06-12 16:49
Quoting Torvus:
Republican lawmakers should try hard to learn from history. I'm sure they've got the time to do a little more reading and thinking? Where abortion is restricted or banned you have the makings of more criminals. EG You may remember the Romanian president Ceaucescu banned abortion during his rule. That country was doomed thereafter (as was Ceaucescu).


I remember seeing a picture of a boy in a crib at one of Ceaucescu's place for unwanted children. The boy was in his teens and still in a crib. He was thin with a vacant stare on his face that I will never forget. Is that what life is about?

It has been said that Ceaucesu and his wife were killed by the unwanted children he forced on Romania.
 
 
+10 # BLBreck 2012-06-12 18:07
What! Allow women to testify on the needs or rights of women, who are supposedly equal under the law and the Constitution?! Never!

I hope millions of women, and the men who truly love them, will testify with their vote come November and let these men know we differ with their opinion!
 
 
+5 # ghostperson 2012-06-12 20:10
When did men in the GOP join the Taliban?
 
 
-7 # Rick Levy 2012-06-12 21:05
interestingly, not a word about (mainly Republican) women in Michigan (and other states) who are anti-choice and in favor of the 20 week limit. It's ALL men's fault.
 
 
+2 # snowwhite 2012-06-13 15:01
snowwhite
if I were God I would strike a man pregnant with the possibility
that it could happen to any man at any time ,,, the world
would change in a hurry and for the better..
 

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