Monthly Archives: October 2011

Letter to Our Democratic Candidate for Governor

Dear Mayor Dupree,
I am profoundly disturbed and deeply upset by your stance on Amendment 26. I am terribly concerned about the unintended consequences of this legislation for families with fertility problems, and who suffer from stillbirth, traumatic deliveries and miscarriages. Your casual dismissal of them in your statement on this Amendment is so callous I cannot remain silent.

Your stance that you have reservations about the amendment, but ultimately support it, is more offensive to me than wholehearted support would be, because such complete support might imply not being aware of the possible issues with it, or at least it implies an intellectual consistency. Your position dismisses entire segments of Mississippi’s population who have suffered, and will suffer more under this amendment. You say you realize there may be problems, but essentially dismiss them. My faith also privileges life above all else, and thus informs my belief that this amendment is irresponsible, dangerous, and immoral.

I am a woman of childbearing age, with one living son, and one deceased, who understands very personally the stakes of this debate. My oldest son died after a traumatic preterm delivery, a delivery I fought in the hospital for more than a week, and that I did nothing to cause. When I read doctor’s comments that they’re concerned that this will lead to investigation and prosecutions of women (like me!) for the loss of their pregnancies and wanted children, that it might prevent Mississippians with fertility problems from getting medical care accepted everywhere else in this country, and that it might make certain forms of birth control illegal, I am appalled. I am frightened for the effects such an investigation could have on a family, and by the effects such a law could have on the decisions doctors make to save women’s lives and reproductive organs. It is positively callous to support an amendment when you admit to being unsure of its possible legal effects.

I am a lifelong Democrat, but you have gone too far. I will not vote for you in the upcoming election despite my even greater dislike for Phil Bryant. I am done voting against my best interests because of my fear of a greater evil. I will write in the name of a person I can support. If I can crudely paraphrase Pastor Martin Niemöller, I now feel like you have joined the crowd of Personhood USA, who first came for women who wanted abortions, then for women who needed abortions, and are now coming for all women. But I am not really concerned for myself. I have health insurance, and the means to leave this state if necessary. This amendment will hurt women and families, and will not protect children. And the guilt will rest with all of Mississippi.

Yet it will rest even more so with our leaders, who take weak stances on moral issues and refuse to investigate and stand up for what’s right for all citizens.

Best regards,
sbf

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My thoughts on the Personhood Amendment

Citizens of our lovely state of Mississippi will be voting on an Amendment to its Constitution that seeks to define who is a person in the following way, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” I am really worried it will pass.

I have a known history of miscarriage, as well as preterm labor on the cusp of the third trimester. I *chose* to accept significant personal risk to try to save Natan’s life, and to spend nearly 6 months on bedrest, with other medical interventions, to bring Samuel into this world safely. I can’t help but think, “What would this amendment mean for me? Or for a woman like me?”

According to every article I’ve read, and conversation I’ve had, I am pretty lucky not to have been in a state with a Personhood Amendment in January 2007. Which is pretty funny given that I pretty passionately believe Natan was a person. He has a name, a coffin, a grave, a family.

Everyone, every doctor, nurse, intern, resident was kind to me during the week I was hospitalized trying to stop labor with Natan, and in the hours after he died. The University of Michigan Hospital sends us a card every year. I got to hold Natan, his body intact, after he died, and I was stabilized. They dressed him, took photos. It was the best of awful circumstances. In the hospital, I rejected the memorial box they made for us, but the next day I wanted it. They’d held onto it, telling us that’s a normal grief response: wanting to run away as fast as possible at first, regretting that later. I remember the anesthesiologist most of all, I guess because he was next to my head. He was so kind, and I vaguely remember him dropping by my room to check on me later. I firmly believe I would not have been okay had the hospital doctors, nurses and staff not been so kind–had the hospital not been prepared and able to respond to my preterm labor and Natan’s death as an inexplicable tragedy that I did not bring about.

What would have happened if we’d been in a post-Personhood Amendment Mississippi? What will happen if we decide to have another baby? Would I have been forced, rather than allowed, to make the choices I did? Would I have been investigated after Natan’s death? Would the police have had to question us all, to determine if we were suspects? I am telling you without a doubt, even if that investigation had been short, it would have been hideously intrusive, and pointlessly cruel.

I was almost thirty years old, I really wanted to be a mom. So I was the perfect pregnant lady. I’d been on prenatal vitamins, with extra folic acid because my nephew has spina bifida, for months. I did not drink coffee. I did not drink alcohol. No March of Dimes, I did not smoke or do street drugs. I did go swimming a few times, and walk to campus 3/4 of a mile away. I didn’t question my doctor enough when he assured me I wasn’t having real contractions the week before I was hospitalized. Okay that I do regret, but it doesn’t make me culpable.

Where am I going with this post? It would have been ridiculous and traumatizing to investigate me. I’m not sure I could’ve gone on to have Samuel if there’d been a suggestion of blame. I rejected an autopsy for Natan’s little body. When the neonatologist asked if we wanted one, I distinctly remember responding, “I think we all know why he died.” He answered, “Yes, I believe we do.” And I told him I didn’t want to be responsible for damaging his body any further. Would Natan have been autopsied against the will of his parents? I know that’s explicit, but it’s necessary in the context of this discussion.

What will happen to women and their wanted pregnancies, their wanted children? Because this is not just about abortion. If I’d developed an infection, I’d have had to deliver to save at least my reproductive organs, possibly my life. I was past the point of viability, but not by much. Would I have been forced to wait a week or more, and an ethics panel or judge been called, to decide *for me* what risks had to be taken with my life, my body, and my ability to carry future children?

In my pregnancy with Samuel, what would have happened? I wrote a few months back about the controversy with Makena. Fortunately, it seems like pharmacies are still allowed to make the compounding version of the progesterone drug I was on from weeks 16-36. Would a pregnant woman who didn’t take that, with a known risk, and who delivered early, be prosecuted? Are the people behind Amendment 26 willing to pick up the bill for that?

Is getting pregnant with my history like dropping a boulder off a building onto a busy street? I can’t *know* it will kill someone, but odds are good?

A young woman stopped by the Personhood Booth at the U of MS football game (so I heard since I wasn’t there at the time), and said she’s in favor of the amendment because she’s Catholic and against birth control. That’s fine. I’m Jewish and against pork. I’m also a highly committed vegetarian, and think eating meat is unethical and immoral. I usually just say meat production, and keep quiet around meat eaters. But if we’re being honest about personal religious and ethical obligations that we’d like the rest of the world to accept….

I know people who are against abortion believe they’d be preventing murder with this amendment. We disagree on that–but it’s not just about abortion. This amendment is still like bringing a power hammer to hang up a picture. You’re going to destroy everything in the vicinity. This amendment is not the answer.

Check out this website: http://parentsagainstms26.com/. Support it if you can. I don’t know what the implications of this amendment will be for a woman like me. But I do believe obstetricians, lawyers, ACOG, and the Mississippi State Medical Association, when they say it will have scary and far reaching effects, and could endanger the legality of birth control, VBAC, IVF, and choices women and families need in their lives.