I have received an outpour of support for my letter to pro-life activists, so I first want to thank you all for reading and sharing my story. It's been extremely difficult reliving the loss of my daughter, but I firmly believe there needs to be a change. And for that reason, I will press on.
As expected, some responses were extremely positive and others extremely negative. Both, I feel, are a win. The topic is being considered and discussed.
I feel the need to address the comments that seem to fall somewhere in the middle. These are the comments that go back to the point I was trying to make in my letter.
"I'm so sorry that happened. You should have never been forced out of state. Your situation should have been considered an exception to the law."
Now, I don't want to turn this little space I've created into a political mine field. I understand everyone has a right to their own beliefs, and I appreciate you even taking the time to read my story, let alone comment. I also understand that this comment comes from a good place. But with that said, as a mother who has actually lived through this scenario and has heard other women's similar stories in my support group, I feel the need to point out a major flaw in this thinking and how it would impact people like me.
The moment we add exceptions to the rule is the moment the choice gets put back into someone else's hands.
Let me try to explain. If the law states abortion is illegal unless the baby has a severe prenatal diagnosis, I would then be relying on my healthcare provider to decide whether or not my prenatal diagnosis is severe enough. My healthcare provider would choose whether or not they believe my situation is morally and ethically acceptable to be deemed an exception. Now, depending on your healthcare provider's background, experience, religion and political stance, that decision would vary greatly.
Through my support group, I have had the unfortunate privilege of learning how much can actually go wrong during a pregnancy, all of which I never considered before Grace. Some diagnoses result in pregnancy loss like mine, some result in loss shortly after delivery, and others result in a child that is either severely disabled, live a life full of suffering, or both. What one person considers severe may not be the same as another's.
This goes back to the Tennessee law as it stands today. The law states:
Code Section 39-15-201 to 209; 37-10-301 to 307
Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion First trimester: with woman's consent upon advice of her M.D. After first trimester and before viability: with same, but in a hospital. After viability, only if necessary to preserve life or health of mother.
The Tennessee law makes it illegal for women to have an abortion at a clinic after her first trimester, or 15 weeks. At that point, women are forced into having the procedure in a hospital, limiting accessibility across the state. Many hospitals do not have the appropriate staff to perform the procedure and others have the right to deny it, leaving women like me forced to go out of state. After viability (which isn't defined), it's only legal if necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother. If I continued my pregnancy, my risks of infection, hemorrhaging and other medical issues, including death, would have increased. Would I be considered an exception under "preserved health of mother?" I'm sure everyone's answer to that question would be different.
The only way to protect a woman in my situation is to give all women complete autonomy of their reproductive rights.
I encourage you to understand the abortion laws in effect in your state.