The other night, I was watching our local news, and one of our state representatives is sponsoring legislation to make the abortion laws even more restrictive than they already are. I did some research and found a quote that said that she believed Tennessee had some of the most liberal abortion laws. This is totally not true, as NARAL has given us a D for women's reproductive rights.
This representative is Debra Maggart, and I have written her a letter telling my story. I am copying and pasting it here. I realize I probably won't change her mind, but I do believe my story is compelling enough that she might be moved to at least help with an amendment so that a woman in my situation, a woman who develops a life-threatening condition during pregnancy or a woman who was raped won't have to go through what I did. Here's the letter. I would love to hear opinions on this letter. If you are from Tennessee, please write to her. I won't list her e-mail address here, but if you do a search on the Internet, you will find her site, which gives her e-mail address.
My name is Tamara Belinc. I am from a small community in middle Tennessee. I am a stay-at-home mom to a five-year-old kindergartener, and I work part-time as a freelance writer. My husband is employed by a long-time Bedford County company. I am educated, and my husband and I own our home. Would you have ever guessed we would have the need of a second trimester abortion?
The other night, I turned my television to the nightly local news, and I saw the story about the abortion law you sponsoring. After doing a little research, I saw a quote where you stated Tennessee has the most liberal abortion laws in the country. I have to disagree, as will many others in this state.
This past summer, our second daughter, Jenna, was diagnosed in utero with Trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder doctors deem as incompatible with life. An ultrasound showed she also had a cystic hygroma (a fluid filled pocket on the back of her neck), a clubbed foot, very little brain matter, kidney malformations and other problems. My husband and I decided after a lot of soul searching to end the pregnancy. This was the hardest decision we had ever made. Jenna was very much wanted and very much loved. My strongest desire was to keep her from pain.
While we were waiting for our amniocentesis results, I did a lot of research on Trisomy 18 and the options available to us if she did have it. We wanted to end the pregnancy through a labor and delivery abortion at our hospital with our doctor. I wanted to be able to hold her and take pictures of her and make memories that would have to last us a lifetime. I thought I would be able to do this since abortion is legal in this country. Imagine my surprise when my doctor informed me that because I was almost 20 weeks pregnant, we would have to travel out of state to an abortion clinic to do so.
As I am sure you know, all second trimester abortions have to be performed in a hospital, and all doctors and hospitals have the right of refusal, meaning they can refuse to perform certain procedures if it goes against their moral beliefs. There are no exceptions for life of the mother, poor prenatal diagnosis or rape or incest. Because of these laws and the political climate in this state, many hospitals will no longer perform the procedure.
So, we made the appointment to travel to Atlanta, four hours away from where we live, sneaking away as though we were doing something wrong, something illegal, when all we wanted to do was make the right healthcare choices for our child. We knew we would not be able to have Jenna's remains, nor would I be able to give her the blanket, hat and teddy bear given to me by a friend who also terminated a pregnancy due to a poor prenatal diagnosis.
When we arrived at the clinic, we waited four hours with women who wanted to end their pregnancies for convenience reasons, only to be told that because of a mistake the clinic had made, I would not be able to have the procedure done that day. I would have to wait a week or more to have it done. We decided to let nature take its course and came back home.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for me to be around women who were throwing away perfectly healthy babies? I didn't want a perfect baby. They don't exist. I just wanted a baby that would live, and I didn't want my baby to suffer. I carried our baby as long as she lived, and she was stillborn in August. Even though I was able to have her remains and take pictures, I still believe I should have been able to make healthcare decisions for my child.
If your born child is declared brain dead, you have the option to remove him/her from life support machines. If your child has a terminal illness and all hope has been exhausted, you have the right to stop treatment. But, because my child wasn't born yet, I did not have those options.
In the time since Jenna's birth and death, I have been writing to our legislators trying to find someone to sponsor what the people who are helping me write letters are calling Jenna's law, an amendment that states hospitals have to perform second trimester abortions and have doctors on staff who are willing to do so. I don't believe in forcing a doctor to perform a procedure that goes against his moral beliefs. However, a hospital is not human and can not have moral objections.
I realize you probably will not help me due to your pro-life beliefs, but I implore you, whatever you do, please realize that not everyone who has an abortion does so for convenience reasons. Please work in an amendment that would keep someone in my position from being punished even more than they already are. Please do this for me, for our daughters, for all women and especially for my Jenna and babies like her who shouldn't be made to suffer due to poorly written laws.