SB 5, among other things, bans abortions in the state of Texas past 20 weeks. It also requires that physicians who work at abortion clinics be credentialed in a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. It also requires that all non-pharmacological abortions take place in an ambulatory surgery center. Effectively, this bill would shut down all but five clinics in a state the size of France.
This monstrosity came up because Rick Perry is under the delusion that he can win a Republican nomination for President of the United States. The state legislature only meets for four and a half months every other year. That ended at the end of May. But it can be called back for a special session for so-called "emergency" legislation. The legislature came back to supposedly work on redistricting, because the courts still weren't happy with the Texas maps. But halfway through the session, Rick Perry made whatever decision he made about his future, and did a bunch of noxious "pro-conservative" things, like veto the Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter act. And put abortion on the agenda.
For a variety of procedural reasons, Democrats were able to kill most of the provisions of this bill in the regular legislative session. But the special sessions have different rules.
So the bill easily went through the Senate, and then on Thursday, it went to the House. And that's when the call went out. Hundreds of women from all over the state descended upon Austin to testify on the bill in committee. 700 women signed up to testify, and they went until four in the morning. The committee chairperson at one point called the testimony "repetitive", but that didn't stop women from telling their stories over and over again. The bill did get out of committee and went to the House, and the Democrats did everything they could to delay and add amendments and otherwise make this horrible thing not so horrible. This process led to another Republican horror statement about rape, with Jodie Laubenberg saying that "In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out," in denying a "rape and incest" exception to the 20 week ban. In the meantime, more and more Texas women came to the Capitol to get their voices heard.
Time was running out. The special session ends today at midnight. And if the legislation doesn't pass by then, then it's dead. There were some nice procedural barriers, in the legislation had to be read a few times before the final vote in the House. And yesterday at around 10:40, it passed and was kicked back to the Senate. There was a 24 hour waiting period before the Senate could take up the measure. And at 11:18 a.m. Senator Wendy Davis began her filibuster as her last chance to save Texas women from a horrible fate. (And the State of Texas from years of litigation, as I imagine that the injunction paperwork is being drawn up as I type.)
I've been pro-choice since the first time I gave such matters thought. I got into an argument with my 6th grade religion teacher about it the first time the subject was brought up in school. No matter how much she explained it to me, I could not grasp that I (who'd just started having periods) would have to have a baby if somehow I got pregnant. I first got involved with Planned Parenthood formally in 1992 during the Republican National Convention and the descent of the Christian Coalition upon our local affiliate. I've been a leader at Lobby Day for four sessions. (This year was the first I'd missed in nearly a decade.) I've been a clinic escort. I've chaired fundraisers and sat on committees. I've given some pro bono legal advice. I've marched in the Pride Parade with Planned Parenthood.
This isn't to say that I don't understand or even respect the other perspective on abortion. I just strongly believe that each of us should be able to make our own choices about such things.
Until this year, though, I never really had to think personally about abortion services. I'd practiced safe sex all of my adult life until January 2012, when I went off the pill for the first time, and Graham and I decided to try to have a baby. Having always been "good", I just assumed that I'd be pregnant immediately upon discontinuation of birth control. That didn't happen. In July, I started taking more pro-active steps, like checking my basal body temperature and charting my various fluids and generally understanding my own reproductive system a little better. I started putting "appointments" on the calendar for the optimal times to have sex so I'd get pregnant. In November, I went on a drug for a few months that was supposed to help with my luteal phase. In January, I had an x-ray taken of my uterus to see if there was any blockage. In March, I started acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine along with some other vitamins.
This is to say that I really, really, really wanted to get pregnant.
In mid-April, we were just about to take the next steps to seeing fertility specialists when I peed on a stick and it was positive. We couldn't believe it, and I peed on a stick for six days in a row to confirm that yes, I was pregnant. We were over the moon.
I called my doctor, and I didn't have an appointment scheduled until my 8th week of pregnancy, which was May 20. We told selected friends and family. We started trying to figure out how to reconfigure the house. My boobs started growing(!) and getting heavier. I'd have lightheaded spells. I was suddenly tired all the time. We bought a few baby items. And we just impatiently waited for May 20 to get here so we could see the baby.
Finally, four days after my 40th birthday, Graham and I went to see the doctor. I was 8 weeks and 2 days pregnant. We were so excited! The nurse came in and took a lengthy medical history, and we hurried through because we just wanted to get to see the baby. Finally, I stirruped up, flashed my cooch for at least five people, and was stuck with the magic wand.
It took awhile to find the placenta. And I remember saying "phew, there's just one!" But the nurse said, "not so fast." And the next thing I knew, Graham and I were staring at not one, but two yolk sacs. There were twins! But they were small, the larger one almost a week smaller than it'd should have been, and the smaller one even tinier. The nurse said that maybe my dates were off. But I'd been downright anal about record keeping. I knew what my dates were. Then, she asked the student if he'd get the doctor. That's when I knew that things weren't going well.
The doctor didn't take much time. He took a look, told me to get dressed, and we met in his office a few minutes later. He explained that he had trouble finding a heart beat, but he wasn't sure if that was because they were so small or because something was wrong. He cautioned us that this might not be a good pregnancy, especially for the smaller one. But he referred us to a maternal fetal specialist that had better equipment and might be able to see more clearly what was going on. Graham and I left the appointment in a state of shock. Twins! But will they be ok? Holy shit, we're really pregnant! But they were so small! Maybe it's going to be ok. Maybe it's not going to be ok.
I was able to get an appointment with the specialist that same day, and I went by myself to his office. I didn't know until later, but he and my father are close colleagues, and my father thinks that he's the best there is at his job. I just wanted to know if my twins were going to be ok. The drill was more or less the same. Strip down, legs up and open, and wait for the insertion. His screen really was clearer than the other, and we could see the embryos better. He found a very faint heartbeat on one of them, but it was extremely low for what it should have been. The other may or may not have had a heartbeat. In addition, I learned that monozygotic, monoamniotic twins (identical twins that share an embryonic sac) are very rare and very high risk. He told me that we should wait a few days and check again.
I went home as confused and upset and numb as I've ever been. This had been one of the most roller coaster days of my life. And for the first time, I started thinking about abortion. What if they lived but there was something so wrong with them that they weren't going to make it? Obviously, there were some developmental problems early on, but what if they were severe, but not severe enough to trigger a miscarriage. What if the big one makes it but we have to terminate the little one? How does that even work? I knew that if something was terribly wrong with them, I'd want to abort, but this was something I'd wanted so much and worked so hard for. It was emotionally draining.
I started looking for signs that I wasn't pregnant any more. Did my boobs feel lighter? Did I feel like I had more energy? Was I cramping? None of these were conclusive.
When I went back to the specialty doctor's office on Friday May 24, I wasn't sure what I wanted to see. A strong heartbeat on both was my top scenario, but I knew that wasn't likely. What would I do if there were still a heartbeat but it was still low? What if one but not the other? I also knew that even if things looked good(-ish) that I wasn't out of the woods. There were still genetic scans and 31 more weeks of pregnancy where something could go terribly wrong. This happy, breezy pregnancy that I'd had for 8 weeks was gone, no matter what the outcome of the sonogram.
With my mother and my sister at my side, I found out that the heartbeats had stopped on both embryos. I wasn't going to have to make any decisions.
Graham came immediately home from Flipside, and we spent the weekend together waiting for me to miscarry.
On May 29, I had a D&C and was officially not pregnant again.
I REALLY don't want to talk about this. This was hard to write. It's hard to think about. I'm better than I was a month ago, but it's still pretty raw.
There are a few people who know about this, but it's not something I was yelling from the rooftops. It's extremely personal and painful and private. But the Texas legislature and governor don't really care about that sort of thing. They want to politicize this. The want to insert themselves in the discussion I had with my husband and doctors and family. I thought with dread about the sonogram the state of Texas would make me have to if I had to terminate the pregnancy. In this process, I'd had four of them. But the state of Texas doesn't think that's enough, and they would have forced me to have another, meaningless test just to shove (literally) the point home that they are in more control than I am over decisions in my uterus. That bullshit can't be dealt with right now, but the stuff that Wendy Davis is fighting can.
I'm over 40 years old. ANY pregnancy I have is by definition high risk. I WANT to have a baby. But I also know that I'm more likely to have something go wrong later in the pregnancy than younger women. I am grateful that the genetic screening can be done earlier, but there are some things that aren't going to come up on the MaterniT21 or equivalent tests (which are done around 10-12 weeks). I live in a huge, dense metropolitan area, and I think that the clinic close to me will survive if this bill passes. But the waits will be ridiculous, the lines will be long, and there won't be enough clinicians to serve the population.
This is extremely personal, but it's also too important for me not to talk about. I'm not interested in sympathy or expression of sorrow for my loss. I'm interested in a fight to ensure that women in my state--that I--have the resources that we need to take care of ourselves. Support Wendy Davis in her filibuster, and fight .