Terminating a Wanted Pregnancy: Access, Ignorance, and the Law

By Guest Contributor, Batsheva Guy

batsheva guy

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch assured the Senate Judiciary Committee in no uncertain terms that he would not overturn Roe v. Wade, declaring that he would “walk out the door” if President Trump asked him to do so.

That’s all well and good. But what would Judge Gorsuch do about making sure women have access to this procedure, which as he recognizes, has been legal for a long time?  I know from experience that state laws may not outlaw abortion, but they make it practically inaccessible for many women.

In September 2015, I terminated my wanted pregnancy.

At around 23 weeks, during a routine ultrasound, right after discovering that we were having a baby girl, my husband and I were told that the fetus was not viable outside of the womb due to a fetal anomaly. She was not growing properly, and I was losing amniotic fluid quickly. If my baby girl did survive to birth, she would not be alive for more then a few hours. We were forced to make an abrupt decision as a result of restrictive laws surrounding abortion. About thirty seconds after we found out the news, we looked at each other and silently made the choice, because we knew if we didn’t soon, it may be too late.

This story is not about me. It is about the thousands of women who are denied access to safe and legal abortions every year. It is about the women who do not have the means to travel across the country, pay exorbitant sums of money, and take large chunks of time away from jobs, school, or families to terminate their pregnancies. This is my story, but I hope it gives a voice to others.

After we got the news, I didn’t have time to process any of it. I knew I would be on a time crunch and that I had to push through the pain. I had no time to grieve, no time to cry, no time to think.  I knew it may be too late to terminate.

I asked the doctor, “Can I terminate in Ohio?”

She replied, “Oh, I don’t know what the laws are.”

She knew nothing because abortion isn’t a health care issue, it’s a political issue. She basically told me, “Figure it out on your own.”

Fortunately, I had the background knowledge to figure out next steps.i_stand_with_planned_parenthood_2 I called Planned Parenthood, which confirmed by fears—Governor Kasich had signed a law banning abortions performed after 20 weeks.  I also learned that closest place I could go to legally terminate my pregnancy this late was Chicago. So, my husband, his parents, and I had to drop everything and drive to Illinois from Ohio. I couldn’t help thinking that we were privileged for being able to do so. Why did I have the ability to travel for this medically necessary procedure, while other women would have no option but carrying their babies to term? These were the thoughts going through my mind while I dealt with my own personal hell.

We didn’t have space to mourn. The law wouldn’t allow it. We had to pick up and go.

We arrived in Chicago on a Thursday afternoon, just two days after the diagnosis. We drove straight to the hotel, dropped off our bags, and made our way to the clinic. I had to have another ultrasound in which I was forced to see my baby girl one last time. Even though I was at almost 23 weeks, she measured only at 18 weeks; my amniotic fluid was almost gone at this point. I was dilated the next day, a Friday, and had the procedure on Saturday. In the fewer than three days between my diagnosis and the start of the procedure, I endured one genetic counseling session and four ultrasounds. And then I was done.

We drove home the next day, a Sunday, and I began to weep as we left the city.

chicago-882415_960_720I had to go all the way to Chicago for a legal medical procedure that should have been available in my hometown. My insurance company refused to cover the abortion, even though it was safer for my health and well- being than carrying the baby to term.

But worst of all, I had to leave my baby alone in a strange city, knowing I would never have her back.

I was forced to leave home during the most painful event in my life.  But not everyone would have been able to make the same decision.  Financial and other limitations would have prevented them from having a “choice” at all.

Ultimately, it all boils down to access—who has it and who doesn’t. According to John Oliver, “abortion cannot just be theoretically legal; it has to be literally accessible.” I was lucky enough to have the means and support to choose to terminate my pregnancy and be able to travel to do so if necessary. Not everyone has that luxury.

Sheva Guy (M.S.) is a second- year doctoral student in the Educational and Community- Based Action Research (ECAR) program within Educational Studies at the University of Cincinnati (UC). Sheva’s research interests revolve around gender equality in STEM fields as well as women’s reproductive health. Sheva is passionate about instigating and inspiring change at institutional levels in regards to gender equality and women’s rights.

Author: Verna L. Williams

Interim Dean, Nippert Professor of Law, co-founder and co-director of Cincinnati Law's Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice. Professor Williams joined Cincinnati Law's faculty in 2001. She teaches Constitutional Law; Gender and the Law; and Family Law. Her research examines the intersection of race and gender in law and society.

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