- NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan
Any day now, the Supreme Court will determine whether women, in consultation with their families and doctors, should make personal reproductive-health decisions - or whether politicians should make our medical and moral decisions for us.
I care a lot about what the Supreme Court has to say about President Bush's Federal Abortion Ban. The same day I decided to terminate my pregnancy, lawmakers gathered in Washington, DC to discuss the ban, which could outlaw abortion as early as 12 weeks and has no exception for a woman's health.
That's why NARAL Pro-Choice America asked me to share my story with you. It's not a story I ever thought I'd share with thousands of strangers, because frankly, it's nobody's business. But now, of course, it is.
When I was 18 weeks pregnant at my doctor's office in Lexington, Massachusetts, I remember eagerly anticipating the ultrasound that would tell my husband and me whether our baby was a boy or a girl. We were so excited, oohing and aahing like the giddy, expectant parents that we were.
The technician, however, was quiet, and I started to panic. We learned that the ultrasound indicated that the fetus had an open neural-tube defect, meaning that the spinal column had not closed properly. We had to go to Boston immediately, where a new, high-tech machine could tell us more.
In Boston, the doctor spoke using words no pregnant woman wants to hear - clinical terms like hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The spine, she said, had not closed properly, and because of the location of the opening, it was as bad as it could get.
What the doctors knew was awful: the baby would be paralyzed and incontinent, its brain smushed against the base of the skull and the cranium full of fluid. What they didn't know was devastating: would the baby live at all, and if so, with what sort of mental and developmental defects? Countless surgeries would be required if the baby did live, and none of them could repair the damage.
It sounds naive now, but I never considered pregnancy a gamble. Sitting in the doctor's windowless office, I tried to read between the lines of complicated medical jargon, searching for answers that weren't there. But I already knew what I had to do. Even if our baby had a remote chance of surviving, it was not a life we would choose for our child.
I asked over and over, "Are we doing the right thing?" Our family - even my Catholic father and Republican father-in-law, neither of whom was ever pro-choice - assured us that we were. Politics suddenly became personal - their daughter's heartbreak, their son's pain, their grandchild's suffering - and that changed everything.
If President Bush's Federal Abortion Ban had been in force on that day, my husband and I wouldn't have had this option.
It's not always easy to see how the Federal Abortion Ban will affect our lives, so I am asking you to share my story with your family, friends, and co-workers. Please let them see the human side of this story. You can also read my full story here.
As soon as the Supreme Court makes its decision, NARAL Pro-Choice America will be in touch and provide you with ways to take action in your community. In the meantime, if you have a personal story of your own to share, please submit it here. And please learn more about President Bush's Federal Abortion Ban by clicking here.