My friend Valerie, a thirty five year old doctor, called with wonderful news. She was pregnant. She and her husband Joe, also a doctor, had been trying for a while with discouraging results. Then suddenly, a baby was on the way. Friends at the hospital rejoiced when they heard the news.
Some doctors volunteered to take Val’s ‘on call’ nights during those first few wobbly weeks when she didn’t feel so good. But then, as she neared the end of her third month, things got better. Her appetite returned and she happily pointed to her ‘baby bump.’
The hospital where we worked had a new ultrasound machine. Four months into her pregnancy, Valerie and Joe decided to check up on their little one. The results were devastating. The baby, a girl, was anencephalic meaning none of the baby’s brain had formed above the brainstem. If carried to term, the baby would die within minutes or at best days after its birth. She would never be able to see, hear, feel or think.
Joe wanted Valerie to honor the religious sanctity of life from conception to birth and carry the baby to term but Valerie, though grief-stricken, decided to terminate the pregnancy immediately. “My body, my decision,” she told him. And that’s the crux of the matter; religious dogma as opposed to a woman’s right to choose.
Avowed pro-life freshman Governor Sam Brownback urged new legislators to “create a culture of life” in the state of Kansas. Duly elected officials are doing just that by passing legislation that would ban abortion after the 21st week of life because of the scientifically unsubstantiated claim that a fetus can feel pain.
Though Planned Parenthood provides abortions, they account for only 3 percent of women’s services. On July 1st, Kansas will prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood, which, if found legal, will deny women all other Planned Parenthood services such as cancer screening, contraception, tests and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, urinary track tests and counseling.
Another Kansas law beginning on July1st “prohibits insurance companies from offering coverage of abortions as part of their general health plans, except when a woman’s life is at risk,” and “individuals and employers who want abortion coverage would have to buy supplemental policies that cover only abortion.”
Though extremely controversial with constant barriers being thrown in the way, abortion is still legal in every state of the union and every woman’s right to choose is protected, at least through the first trimester.
Valerie and Joe still wanted a big family but because of Val’s age, decided not to try again. Instead, they adopted a family of five brothers and sisters, ages one to fifteen, a monumental task but one they are doing with great quantities of love and enthusiasm. All are doing well. Religion plays an important part in their lives and they are regular church goers.
Yet they believe, as do I and the majority of Americans, that the matter of abortion is a personal decision and should be kept out of the political arena.