Yesterday, the Women’s Filibuster began and including incredibly moving testimony from Missouri mother Liz Read-Katz on the State House steps. The Missouri legislators were debating tripling the current waiting period from 24 to 72-hours before a woman can receive an abortion. These laws affect real women’s lives.
As Read-Katz bravely and eloquently points out, having an abortion is never an easy decision and an extended waiting period doesn’t help women.
Testimony from Liz Read-Katz, Columbia, MO,
May 12, 2014
Good afternoon, my name is Liz Read-Katz and I live in Columbia, MO. It is always a bit bitter sweet when I am asked to speak at a committee meeting or an event like this. Sweet because I am honored that organizations that I revere think I can do something to help a cause I am so passionate about and bitter because of the story I have to share that led me to want to speak up.
My story resonates and hits a chord with people on both sides of this debate. It is a story that could happen to anyone. I am a college educated stay at home mom to a wonderful 18 month old, a devoted wife of 7 years, a somewhat stereotypical woman who loves romantic comedies and chocolate. And 3 years ago this August I had an abortion.
New Years Eve 2011, after five years of marriage my husband and I decided we were ready for kids. By May I was pregnant and we were ecstatic, my husband had just gotten a promotion, we were buying a house with a white picket fence, we were going to be a family.
Our dreams were coming true but everything changed when at 16 weeks we found out that the baby I was carrying had a greater than 1 in 10 chance of having Trisomy 18, a chromosomal defect that is described on the Trisomy 18 Foundations website as “usually fatal, with most babies dying before birth and those who do make it to birth typically living only a few days. However, a small number of babies (less than 10%) live at least one year.”
All I felt was disbelief. We had opted for genetic testing because I had been adopted and we knew nothing about my biological makeup and because a pregnancy book had recommended it, never in a million years did we think it would actually have an impact on us.
I was 17 weeks 1 day pregnant, when we met with a genetic counselor who told us more about the tests and our results as well as about trisomy 18. We then met with a doctor who performed a higher resolution ultrasound than the ones at your average OB's office. The ultrasound lasted about a half an hour, several problems were found including an Atrial Septal Defect, a large hole between the upper chambers of the heart, an unusually small stomach, more than likely caused by esophageal atresia where the esophagus does not connect to the stomach, meaning the baby cannot eat by mouth, and other markers of Trisomy 18. It was then we decided to have an amnio as it would be the only way to know for certain if our baby had trisomy 18.
Two days later we got the initial results back confirming a trisomy 18 diagnosis, a diagnosis that is incompatible with life. It was after much soul searching and with a heavy heart that after talking with my husband, family, rabbi and doctor that I made the most difficult choice I have ever had to make, but I knew that by bringing this child into the world I would be condemning him or her to life in a hospital and to a life of pain, what kind of life would that be? So I made the choice that was best for myself, my family and my baby, I chose to have an abortion.
Being a Christian facility, my doctor’s hospital normally does not permit terminations, but she petitioned the ethics board, and after looking over my baby’s diagnosis and prognosis, the board deemed that in this case they would allow her to terminate the pregnancy, they would allow her to perform an abortion.
I was admitted on a Saturday morning and had the procedure before sunrise the next day. After, my doctor came to tell me that she had examined our baby and she noticed some other physical defects and had the baby been born alive it would have been in "agony".
We named our baby Rose after a dream I had while in the hospital. Rose’s remains were cremated and on what should have been her birthday my husband and I scattered her ashes in the Pacific Ocean near where we had met in hopes that she would travel the world on the wind and see all the places we would never get to show her.
That is Rose’s story. I share it because when I lost Rose it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me, not only did I lose a child but I felt alone. There is a stigma associated with having an abortion so although there are many other women like me, rarely do they feel safe sharing their story. I decided I would share Rose’s story because I didn’t want to feel only sadness when I thought of her, because what child want’s that to be the feeling they invoke within their mom? And by sharing, I may be able to make someone else's life just a little bit easier. I would never wish this decision on anyone, but if a woman faces it I hope that by hearing Rose’s story she knows she is not alone. We are not alone, there are many women like us.
But regardless of the reason a woman decides to have an abortion, it is not a decision that is made lightly. It is one that is made after much consideration for yourself, for your family and for your future family, it is made with much debate within oneself and with those who are important in your life, your family and your doctor. It is made because you face real problems, such as: How will I raise this child? How will I feed this child? How will I survive? How will my family survive? What will this child's life be like? What will its quality of life be like? These problems are not superficial, they are not going to be fixed over night, they are not going to be solved in 72 hours. When a woman makes the decision to have an abortion she has already been thinking about it a lot longer than 72 hours.
Putting an additional 72 hour wait restriction on a woman is not going to help her solve the problem she has, she is not going to suddenly have the money to feed this child, she won't magically have a strong support system, and if her reason is like mine 72 hours won't give us a medical marvel that would make her child's life one that won't be filled with pain and suffering. This 72 hour wait isn't about trying to alleviate future regret, this 72 hour wait is the bill's sponsor's hope that they can make it such a burden to get an abortion that she just won't take the time to do it. But here's the thing, women will find a way to do what they know is in their best interest, their family's best interest and their unborn's best interest. All a 72 hour wait will do is make this already hurting woman hurt more.
For me it would have been 72 more hours of me dodging questions like, “when are you due?” “is it a boy or a girl?”. It would have been 72 more hours of feeling the pain of failure as I was not being able to protect my child, as all mothers want to do.
This was the hardest and saddest decision I have ever made but one that I made because it was in my best interest, my family's best interest and because I loved my baby so much I couldn't stand the thought of her being born in pain and agony and to only ever see the walls of a hospital. It was a heartbreaking decision but one I have never regretted and a decision I would choose again if I was ever faced with it.
I thought long and hard about that decision, but once it was made my will never faltered. An additional 72 hour wait, extra ultrasounds, mandatory videos would not have changed my mind, they would have just caused me more pain than I was already going through. The decision to have an abortion is decision that is best left to a woman, her family, her faith and her doctor, not a group of politicians.