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It was February 2014: My husband Eric and I were vacationing in Tahoe and, for some reason, I decided that our vacation was a good time to see if we were pregnant. To our surprise, joy, and apprehension, we were. Our lives were on an upswing, and the timing to add a new member to our family couldn’t have been better. This child was wanted and loved.
At around 13 weeks, the tangible excitement of our new addition was stifled. After a routine ultrasound, we learned that our baby, Gus, had a thickened nuchal fold, an indicator for possible long-term health issues and chromosomal disorders, and a potential sign that he wouldn’t make it to full term.
I sat there expressionless, trying to find words and formulate questions. We were devastated. I was immediately referred to a high-risk doctor, who outlined our chances of having a healthy child. It was 10%. Solemnity washed over us, and so began one of the darkest times in my life. The rest of my pregnancy wasn’t focused on odd food cravings or fussing over impossibly tiny newborn clothes. It was filled with kick counts, anatomy scans, fetal heart rate monitoring, and weekly visits to a maternal fetal medicine specialist. We were stressed out and terrified that, at any given time, we could lose our baby. Even as we received hopeful updates – “it’s not a chromosomal issue,” “his nuchal scans are normalizing” – the gravity of our situation was never far from our minds.
However, armed with information, I could get the care my family needed. At 34 weeks and five days, we went to the high-risk doctor’s to check Gus’ size and vitals. After a quick scan, the doctors realized that he wasn’t growing, and if he stayed in utero any longer, he could starve to death and I would have a stillbirth. On top of this news, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a condition in pregnant women characterized by high blood pressure that, in some cases, also is fatal. A little more than 24 hours later, our baby boy was born. He was five weeks early, weighing in at 3 pounds, 14 ounces. Aside from a brief stint in the neonatal intensive care unit to pack on some weight, he was fine.
Last week, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs approved Senate Bill 25, introduced by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), which would prevent parents from suing their doctors if their baby is born with a disability.
This bill would allow doctors to keep pertinent medical information from pregnant women regarding their pregnancy. Under the guise of medical malpractice protection, legislators are trying to excuse doctors from lying to their patients to restrict access to legal and safe abortions.
As I read the news that SB 25 had advanced to the full Senate, I was brought back to a very fragile, uncertain, and familiar place. Bringing any child into the world comes with struggles, and those with severe handicaps and their families have tough roads ahead. No decisions in these cases are easy. As parents, we do the best we can with what we know. But with laws like SB 25, how are parents supposed to make informed decisions? Yes, even if that decision results in pregnancy termination.
The information provided to me about my child’s condition helped me prepare for a multitude of possible outcomes. It put me in the care of doctors who could closely track my health, which ended up saving my and my baby’s life. While I can only tell my story firsthand, I’m not alone. As I was processing my own journey, I would open up to other parents and the stories just rolled in. From prenatal scans that showed “bright spots” on major fetal organs to placental placements being off, many women would have been affected by this senseless law. And for what?
This common thread of distrusting women and their families to make the best medical decisions for themselves must stop. This government mandate to control my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is only the latest in a string of hateful, systematically misogynistic and, quite frankly, dangerous tactics. We are fortunate to live in a time of incredible medical advancements and interventions. These are tools that must not be withheld because a few politicians want to control women’s reproductive freedom.
If SB 25 had been in place while I was pregnant, I could have died.