Special-needs and choice


The "what might have been" and what one mother might have chosen.

On the site of late there have been a great many posts and debates in regards to what is "ethical" in regards to the reasons a woman might not choose to continue her pregnancy. Being firmly pro-choice, the reasons, for me, generally do not matter except to work to ensure that some of the reasons that are negative to women and families are addressed. Reasons such as domestic violence, poverty, lack of education or access to contraception are in dire need of attention- but in the end what matters is that the woman still has the right to decide if she wishes to continue a pregnancy or not.

 One of the reasons a woman might choose to abort a wanted pregnancy that seems to come under fire a great deal is if there is fetal defect. With the advancements in prenatal testing  the date of finding out there may be a serious issue has been pushed back- but so has the time that a fetus might be considered viable with medical advancements. Many conditions that might not have been treatable in years past have a better outlook, yet there may be less of a chance for births of children with these conditions to take place since advance knowledge may lead to the pregnancy being terminated.  So therein lay the conundrums of what conditions are "severe" enough to be "accepted" as reasons to abort. People melodramatically cry out strawmen of eugenics and playing god, but why should anyone have to justify their decision? Why, indeed.

 Even fourteen years ago when I was pregnant with my second child prenatal testing was nowhere near the accuracy of today. As a twenty-three year old woman with one healthy child already there was no reason for me  to have an alpha fetal protein test; there was a high rate of false-positives and the risks involved in a later amniocentesis at the time were greater than the chances of there being something detectably wrong. So it was when my daughter who is now thirteen was born with Down syndrome it was a complete and total shock. (I suspect, however, the military hospital where I had prenatal care suspected something, nuchal fold measurements were taken more than once, something I now know to be a marker for trisomy 21.) An Air Force colonel wearing BDU’s beneath his lab coat dropped the news to me like an atomic bomb.

I wished my child had been stillborn. I thought about giving her up for adoption if my then-husband agreed. What did we know about trisomy 21? These are the things they don’t talk about when people gloss over reality by talking about "trips to Holland" and "god giving special children to special people." I sure as hell didn’t feel special. I felt betrayed, angry. I mourned the loss of the child that could have been, and still do. I can’t imagine what it is like for someone to lose a child, and I would never demean their grief by saying they can "get over it" or "move on". Yet every day in the back of my mind that mourning is still there, because I know my beautiful little girl will never have the same opportunities that a "normal" child would. There is no "moving on". There is acceptance, and love for the child you have. There is advocacy and trying to live a normal life.

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 The thing is, these feelings are the norm for parents of disabled children. It’s just not spoken of. We’re supposed to have this united front, this smile and acceptance of what life has thrown our way. We’re supposed to pretend to the outside world  that we never would have wanted anything different for our children. Pardon the French, but bullshit. If I could "take it back" somehow, I would. Nature, in its wisdom, doesn’t intend for conceptions with trisomy to survive. Most embryos with chromosomal anomalies are shed. Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, is pretty much the only survivable triplicate chromosomal disorder  with the exception of sex chromosome duplicates. It is estimated that probably 2/3 or more  of conceptions with trisomy 21 are miscarried. 

I love my daughter with every fiber of my being. Yet I cannot say that had I it all to over again, had I known of the Down syndrome, that I would have continued the pregnancy that resulted in her birth. This outlook doesn’t win me favors in a lot of DS communities, but it is reality. If someone like me who has a disabled child can say they would not have chosen this experience, after having our wonderful children, how the hell can we EVER condemn a woman who knows she is unable to take on this burden for herself before there is even a child brought into the world? How "bad" does it have to be for it to be "ok" for her to recognize that she cannot cor will not be able to deal with this reality?

I know to many this will sound terribly selfish. Perhaps it is in some ways. But it is also humanitarian in others. When I was pregnant with my third child, there was a chance he had a chromosomal disorder- trisomy 18. This is a disorder incompatible with life. Most fetuses die in utero; if not, ninety percent of those that make it to term die within a month of birth. They do not attain any meaningful consciousness. Would this have been "bad" enough to warrant a late term abortion? I was prepared for this when I awaited the results of the amniocentesis. Would it have been better for me to birth a child that had no chance to live, for my other children to have a brother who would die?

I’ve rambled on I’m sure, and deviated from the original point, or perhaps not. The thing is, none of us have the ability to know what is going on in any woman’s head when she makes her choices. None of us have the ability or right to decide what she can or cannot endure, or what constitutes quality of life.  Nobody can step into her shoes and decide if her reasons are "good enough", or if it is "right" or "wrong" to make a decision based on her perceptions are for the fetus’ later life. I love my daughter… but I would love for her to have a chance for a normal existence as well.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.


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