Morgan Kennedy was more than five months into her pregnancy and had readied a room for her second daughter Emerald, whose ultrasound pictures she had posted all over her kitchen refrigerator.
But Thanksgiving morning of 2013, Kennedy received devastating news following an anatomy scan — Emerald would be born with a congenital heart defect that would eventually result in death, a specialist told her.
Hearing that, the Chico mother realized she wouldn’t be bringing Emerald home. And so she had to make the difficult decision with her family to say goodbye to her daughter.
At 23 weeks, and six days into her pregnancy, Kennedy had an abortion.
“I’m one of these women,” she said. “This is what happened to me.”
Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives passed legislation to ban women from getting an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Known as HR 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, targets providers who perform late-term abortions and makes it a federal crime that involves a fine, five years in prison or both. The woman who undergoes abortion does not face charges.
When Kennedy heard the bill had cleared the House, she took to Facebook that night and shared her story.
“I am not telling you this story to gain sympathy. I am telling you this story because I am tired of myself and the women I met being the hidden truth of this issue and I’m tired of us being made into political monsters and tools,” she wrote.
Kennedy said many women may find themselves in her position, questioning what to do after they receive the results of the scan and find out their child will be born with a defect that will result in death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, women can go in for a high-resolution ultrasound between 18 and 22 weeks of their pregnancy to get a more detailed look at possible birth defects or other problems.
“Right when they find out, the bill will cut them off,” she said.
Legislators argue that by the time a fetus is at 20 weeks, it “reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.” The bill has been backed by North State congressman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale.
Kennedy called HR 36 a “total contradiction,” doing the “exact opposite” of what the bill aims to accomplish.
She remembers how doctors told her Emerald would die after birth, and would most likely suffocate within a few hours, or even weeks of being born.
“Would (legislators) think that was a better option?” she said. “My motive for doing this is to spare my daughter physical pain.”
The bill also points to “substantial medical evidence” that backs up the claim for fetal pain, but cites no studies.
According to a 2005 study by the Journal of American Medical Association, “evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.”
A 2006 report by the National Institute of Health also concluded that “proposals to inform women seeking abortions of the potential for pain in fetuses are not supported by evidence.”
Kennedy said women like her who have made the tough decision to have a late-term abortion, don’t make the decision out of convenience. She had listened to all of her options and was told how difficult and emotional the abortion process would be, and she had to make the decision fast. In California, abortion is performed for women up to 24 weeks, and for Kennedy, the 24-week mark was approaching fast.
In Shasta County, Women’s Health Specialists is the only surgical abortion provider, providing abortions up to 12 weeks, the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy.
Kimberly Edmonds, director of health services at Women’s Health Specialists, said most of the women who do have abortions, do so in the first trimester. But more often than not, women who do show up past the 12-week mark or the 20-week mark of pregnancy have to be referred out of the county down to Davis or San Francisco, for late-term abortions.
That was the case for Kennedy. She had to hurry to get an appointment, first trying Davis, and then eventually getting an appointment in San Francisco.
But Kennedy reminds that while cases like hers are rare, they still exist.
But some women seeking abortion past the 12-week mark do so because of a common reason.
“Sometimes, women don’t know they’re pregnant,” Edmonds said.
Birth control options, as effective they may be, still have a failure rate, she said. And when a woman is on birth control, she may or may not menstruate, in which case women simply may not know they’re expecting, she said.
But when legislation like HR 36 is put in place, it only creates barriers to access, Edmonds said.
“The more barriers you impose on reproductive care doesn’t mean abortions are going to stop,” she said.
HR 36 passed with a 237-189 recorded vote on Tuesday and is awaiting a Senate hearing.
Read or Share this story: http://reddingne.ws/2kwefjy