Sunday, March 12, 2006

WHAT DOES AN ABORTION BAN with an exception for the life of the mother but not for the health of the mother mean in real life? MB Williams tells us:

Much is made these days about South Dakota's lack of an exception for rape and incest. Not so much, though, for an exception for the physical and/or mental health of the mother. However, it is the latter that terrifies me, the forty-one year-old married mother of five, rather than all the others combined.

Most high-school graduates have at least a passing knowledge of the nineteenth-century authoress, Charlotte Bronte. Married in her late 30s, Bronte is suspected to have died from Hyperemesis Gravidarum during her first pregnancy, a severe form of morning sickness defined by excessive vomiting of four or more times per day.

In each of my pregnancies, I suffered from hyperemesis for the first four months. In my case, however, I vomited no less than six times a day, usually twice that during "peak months". In each subsequent pregnancy, the symptoms got progressively worse, so that during my last pregnancy with Kezzie, even the most expensive anti-nausea drug (Zofran) failed. My OB had a central line placed, and I was put on IV for three months, just to keep me hydrated. Of course, the line closed or became infected a number of times, leading to extended trips to the hospital.

I couldn't work or even care for my other children. I couldn't even prepare food for myself (during the short periods food would stay down), as our bedroom was on the second floor, and my IV was attached to a wicked heavy electronic pump and stand. Eric, who had been laid off six weeks after we saw the two lines on the pee stick, was prohibited from looking for new work, as he couldn't even think to leave me home alone with a recently diagnosed autistic two-year old (the autistic 3.5 old and NT five year old were both in school during much of the day.)

Just about the time the hyperemesis began to die down, the preterm labor would start, although with Kezzie, an early placental abruption at 9 weeks put me on bedrest much earlier than the 18 weeks for Jonah, and 21 weeks for Sam, so it was a good thing I guess that I was already tied to the side of the bed by the IV pump.

All four of Eric['s] and my children were planned, the pregnancies very much wanted. However, the financial and emotional costs were very high, and we lost friends, alienated family and my post-partum mental health and physical health suffered.

. . .

Now imagine this same health crisis, but in a single, 20 year old college student whose partner checks out upon learning of the pregnancy. Parents are far away, she can't even get out of bed, let alone to class. Forced to spend food money to take a cab to the ER when vomiting bile turns to blood. The only health insurance available is Medicaid, and the only OB care a local clinic staffed by residents unwilling to pass out any drugs to "charity cases", even pregnant ones. Friends, also barely adults, don't know how to help and public assistance is rejected due to that proud middle-class upbringing.

I'm also familiar with this scenario, as it describes the pregnancy of my first child.

Now imagine it in a working poor woman dependent upon her two jobs to feed, cloth and house her two other young children. Or a woman whose spouse is deployed to Iraq. Or a teenager already ten pounds underweight from trying to look like the model on the cover of Seventeen.

Imagine trying to function in any way, shape or form while vomiting a minimum of 400 times over 3 to 4 months. Yet, under South Dakota law, a woman seeking relief from this hell is viewed as looking for an abortion out of "convenience". Her life is not in immediate danger (though thousands of women around the world still die from hyperemesis.) Legislators view the clump of cells which are wreaking such havoc with her hormonal and immune system as superior to the woman hosting them.

Hyperemesis (HG) occurs in about 1% of all pregnancies in the US. Thus, approximately 60,000 women last year suffered from this very debilitating condition, mostly in the first trimester of their pregnancy. Many of those women, even some with wanted pregnancies, choose to terminate their pregnancies rather than continue to suffer from HG.

However, if you're on Medicaid or covered under Indian Health Services, the Hyde Amendment prohibits terminating a pregnancy for hyperemesis or any other medical condition which is not an immediate risk to the life of the mother. The Hyde Amendment was a bi-partisan compromise passed soon after Roe v. Wade, which prohibits the use of federal funds for the termination of pregnancy, and at times, has provided no exceptions other than immediate life of mother. Rape and incest were only re-added in 1993, though some states reject those exceptions as well.

So for those who think that today's pro-life Congressmen and women, whether Democrat or Republican, wouldn't think twice about outlawing nearly all abortions, including those for rape, incest and health of the mother, just look to the poor and Indians among us. They live, and suffer, the truth every day.


Anonymous said...

I just wondered what your opinion was on the fact that the people who come up with all the anti-abortion legislature are men who don't deal with these problems.

Kathy said...

There are plenty of women who oppose legal abortion. One of the legislators who voted for the SD abortion ban is a woman. (At least one.)