More Wounded than Eloquent, I’m Afraid.

by Alexa on October 16, 2008

Last night, when John McCain dismissively couched his reference to a “health of the mother” exception to the late-term abortion ban in AIR QUOTES, I had an unexpected reaction. I had expected to be angry, and I was, angry at his cavalier treatment of the subject, at the inane and misleadingly benign phrase “culture of life” (whereas the rest of us, if not actually invested in a culture of DEATH, are merely “meh” on the concept of life. Life? Oh I can take it or leave it!). I was angry at his use of the term “pro-abortion,” a term that could only be coined by someone who has never had to contemplate such a procedure, or watched a loved one do the same. But what I wasn’t expecting last night was to feel my eyes suddenly hot and teary, to feel so profoundly hurt.

Ames died at 22 weeks. I was lucky—if anyone can be said to be lucky in these circumstances—that his water did not break for another two weeks, and lucky that IV antibiotics and hospital bedrest kept the infection in his amniotic fluid more-or-less contained for twelve days after that. But his water could just as easily have broken two days rather than two weeks after his death, and the infection could have been more virulent, spread faster, and reached critical mass much sooner—say when Simone was pre-viability, or on the very cusp of viability. Say 23 weeks instead of 25.

It is my understanding that McCain believes late-term abortion should be outlawed except when it is necessary to save the life of the mother. But when do you make that determination? When does “health of the mother” turn into “life of the mother,” anyway? What organs would the infection have to spread to and shut down before I would be permitted to terminate my pregnancy? Would they wait until I was on a ventilator, or merely until my lungs were beginning to fill with fluid?
At this juncture, many want to get down to the nitty gritty, and talk procedure. Some would ban various methods of dilation and extraction, but would graciously allow for the induction of labor or a C-section. Well, allow me to remind you that a C-section for a severely infected patient—as I would be if they had waited until the distinction between health and life became clear enough—is extremely risky. As for inducing labor, I had been IN labor for 16 hours when Simone—who was breech—was delivered by C-section. Again, how long would they have me labor while the infection spread? After all, it is not as if doctors could terminate my pregnancy once death was sufficiently imminent and then turn the infection off with some magical infection switch. Has McCain never seen an episode of House? Once infection has gotten a powerful foothold, once sespis has set in and organs are shutting down, the process is sometimes impossible to stop. I am talking primarily about infection here only because this was my particular situation, but these same arguments apply to other conditions, such as preeclampsia and HELLP.

I want to be clear: if McCain had his so-called “culture of life,” and if my condition had progressed just a bit earlier, I would at least have lost my uterus, and I might very well be dead. All this in the interest of a baby who could not possibly have lived, because while an extremely few 23-weekers do survive, a by-then-severely-infected 23-weeker would certainly not. “Culture of life,” indeed.

McCain states that he would deal with the issue of abortion with “courage and compassion.” I quote: “the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby.” As if terminating my pregnancy would be the easy way out, the way not requiring his precious “courage.” As if dictating my medical care based upon his religious beliefs is compassionate. And I find it interesting to note that his “compassion” for this newborn does not extend to guaranteeing it health insurance.

I have long suspected that McCain does not think much of women. First because of what I regarded as his rather uncouth treatment of the women in his personal life, and later when he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. But his words last night, and the tone in which he spoke them, show such a terrible and deep disregard for our personhood that they left me shocked and speechless. I have never felt so powerfully disenfranchised as when hearing McCain insinuate that women—us crafty minxes—are not above using trickery to get a (much-coveted, apparently) late-term abortion. How dare he. How dare he imply that women are either too stupid or immoral to be trusted to wrestle with ethical issues on their own. How dare he insult my intelligence, my character, and my commitment to my babies, to my much wanted and years-in-the-making pregnancy, by implying that he is better equipped than myself and my doctors to weigh my child’s life against my health. Women may have the vote, but we do not have the respect of a frighteningly vast segment of our government, and I am sickened and saddened to see it.

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May October 16, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Well done.


tracey October 16, 2008 at 9:14 pm

I said this exact thing to my husband after the debate last night. I had never felt so much disrespect about anything in my entire life. It saddened and sickened me as well.


sarah October 16, 2008 at 9:18 pm

No, no. VERY eloquent. Thank you for writing this.


vague October 16, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Well said! McCain’s and Palin’s stances on women’s issues are utterly dismal — I also find it insulting that Palin’s name on the ticket is supposed to induce women to vote for them. Argh.


Heidi October 16, 2008 at 9:19 pm

A-fucking-men. You found the words I’ve been looking for.


Val October 16, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Thank you for posting my thoughts. While I have not lived what you have lived, I have been right here, reading along with you, crying with you, praying for you and yours, and waiting for updates and stories.

This man is no man at all. He is rude, scornful, condescending and disrespectful.
Thank you for posting what so many of us feel.


Heidi October 16, 2008 at 9:21 pm



Yatima October 16, 2008 at 9:26 pm

It made me cry. McCain wants Cecily Kellogg dead. Simple as that.


AmeliaSprout October 16, 2008 at 9:26 pm

As someone who dealt with preeclampsia and was lucky enough to not have to make any tough choices, you go girl. So incredibly well said.


jonniker October 16, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Alexa, this was one of the best things I have ever read, and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I’m sending it to almost everyone I know.

Incredible. Thank you.


Amy October 16, 2008 at 9:38 pm


I believed I screamed “F*ck You” to the TV screen in front of my Father-in-law when McCain said that. Classy. You’ve made the argument much better than I did!


kristen October 16, 2008 at 9:45 pm

I have been reading for a while, but tonight I have to comment. Well-done. And thank you, for a smart, articulate and thoughtful response to what was truly a disrespectful and condescending statement by someone who doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.


artsweet October 16, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Yes, yes, and yes.


Grace October 16, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Very eloquently said.


Juli October 16, 2008 at 9:55 pm

I think you need to send this to the McCain campaign. And to Obama’s. And to EVERYONE in the media. Right now. Along with your photos of Ames, and of Simone as she fought her way through the NICU to survival, to healthy & happy.

People need to understand that abortion is not just some kind of a belated birth-control option for slackers. Your pregnancy, and the circumstances of the birth of your children, give a view that is NEVER recognized as part of the issue, by those on either side.

Send it, Alexa. Seriously – the whole world would benefit from hearing your story, in your words.


Laura October 16, 2008 at 9:59 pm

Bravo. A beautifully outraged post. (Far more eloquent than my reaction, which was throwing a plastic dinosaur at the TV and screaming, “Fucker!”)


leenie October 16, 2008 at 10:05 pm

very eloquent, and very very necessary. the personal has never been more clearly political.


abdpbt October 16, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Bravo! Great post, and you’ve hit on it exactly–I could not figure out what it was exactly that was making me want to reach through the screen and strangle him last night. So patronizing, so dismissive, so smugly entitled and clueless. Thanks for sharing your story.


LetterB October 16, 2008 at 10:14 pm

And how. Pretty sure there will be a new “Bradley Effect” of conservative women who say they are voting for McCain who will be pulling the lever for Obama after that hideous moment.


Muriel October 16, 2008 at 10:16 pm

I have never been to your site or read anything else that you’ve written (yet), but I came here from a Tweet by finslippy that said I should read your entry.

I’m very glad I did.

I completely agree with what you’ve written and I’m glad someone said it eloquently enough to make the point known. And like Juli said, if you’re up for it, send this to the campaigns.


Sharon October 16, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Well said Alexa. It’s truly scary that people like McCain and Palin have even the smallest chance of running the USA. The country, in fact the whole world, surely doesn’t deserve them on top of the chaos we’re currently experiencing.


Juli October 16, 2008 at 10:22 pm

Alexa – I linked this in my LiveJournal, but you have to HAVE a LiveJournal and be on my friends’ list to see it. I put in a paragraph of backstory and my own view on choice, but otherwise it’s just a link here. If you want to read it, email me and I’ll send you the text of it.


Kate October 16, 2008 at 10:23 pm

I too will be forwarding this on to every single woman I know (and a few men).

Obviously, McCain has no idea what courage or compassion is.


Nicole October 16, 2008 at 10:25 pm

Wow, thank you. You’ve said it all perfectly.


Veronica October 16, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Wonderfully said.


mom101 October 16, 2008 at 10:29 pm

How I wish you could sit right across from him, look him in the face, and say these very words. Thank you for your bravery and honesty. I only wish McCain and his ilk were here to hear it.


Clover October 16, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Beautiful. Thank you for writing this. Seriously, there’s got to be a way to get the mainstream media to pay attention to you, Cecily, Julie, and the other bloggers who’ve spoken so eloquently (now and in the past) about this. Anyone got any bright ideas on how to get their attention?


islaygirl October 16, 2008 at 10:51 pm

so well said.

i second juli at 9.55.


Christina October 16, 2008 at 10:56 pm

What a beautifully written response. I only wish he would read this. I was also one of the people muttering obscenities to the TV when he said that last night.

McCain does not have women’s interests at heart. Are we nothing more than a vessel for a new life, where that life has more rights than we do? (And for that matter, does he think that all women need more “education and training” to reach equal pay with men?)

Thank you for having the courage to post this.


Kerri Anne October 16, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Thank you so much for saying all of this, especially now.


Kara October 16, 2008 at 11:09 pm


I don’t think the argument has ever been stated any better. Is it okay that I’m a little in love with you right now?


Kara October 16, 2008 at 11:10 pm

Most people in my family yell and throw things at the t.v. during football games. Yet my husband and I were doing this last night during the debates. Oh, yes, and let us not forget how he is sooooo interested in special needs children. So interested in fact he declined to meet with Jenny McCarthy. Yep winning us moms one insult at a time.


Robin October 16, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Eloquently stated. You have summed up for all of us what is so disturbing about turning our reproductive choice over to the government. Prop 8 is yet one more attempt to erode our right to chose. As a woman who suffered two miscarriages, I am convinced that nobody could lightly undertake the decision to terminate a pregnancy. When will women be given credit for the ability to make this choice with the help of their doctor, their family, and their god? Thank you for saying this so well.


Robin October 16, 2008 at 11:37 pm

Oh hell. Forget my crap about Prop 8. No more wine for me!


Rachel October 16, 2008 at 11:40 pm

I’m so glad that you wrote about this. As I was watching the debate yesterday night with a crowd of 20-something women and expressed my outrage at McCain’s comment, one of them asked whether/why anyone would need a late-term abortion ‘for the health of the mother.’ And I was proud to say ‘I know these women.’ Of course, I only know them through the internets, but I am proud to know women who are willing to talk about the awful situations and choices they made/nearly faced.


Grace Walker October 16, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Please, it is dangerous to assume that all women, just becaue they *are* women, are as ethical or caring as you are. Terrible, ugly decisions are made by women who don’t care and don’t have any respect for the child they are carrying (and yes, I know these women in real life, not just dressed up in the veil of the internet). Be mad if you want for yourself, but you and the women here who agree with you don’t have any more right to generalize about other women than did McCain.


Juli October 16, 2008 at 11:57 pm

So Grace – do you think those terrible, unethical women who don’t respect their children… should have them and raise them? If they should not terminate, what options do you see for the children they bear? Would you like to meet some of those children? My friend Rebecca has fostered more than twenty, and adopted four.

The problem is, the laws that pertain to abortion for those women will also apply to those like Alexa, who are fighting to keep their children alive.

And I’ve just soapboxed in someone else’s blog – which I don’t like to do. So I shall refrain from doing so further.


Grace Walker October 17, 2008 at 12:04 am

Wow, ignorance and intolerance is so attractive.

So killing them is better? You have no idea what I do professionally, Juli. I teach special education, I work with children every day whose stories would make most sane people cry. For years I volunteered in juvenile court advocating for abused and neglected children. My sister has fostered and adopted medically fragile and horribly abused children. My other sister adopted as well. So don’t preach to me.

Obviously not all women are on the same ethical scale, so taking one woman’s pain and applying it to all women is not a real accurate comparison to make. An emotional thing, an eloquent thing, but not a rational or factual thing. Sorry that upsets your ideals.


emily October 17, 2008 at 12:12 am

Wow, Alexa. I am so, so thankful you wrote this. Last night, as I heard that man say that crap, I thought he has no idea what he’s talking about. And I’m a big fan of Obama and definitely more aligned with his positions than McCain’s, but my sense after the whole exchange is that neither of them really have any idea what it is to be a mother (first, long awaited after infertility, adoptive, or otherwise) or what it is to still be waiting and understand that even then, when your children are so very, very much wanted, you may be forced to make such a hard choice and want and need the dignity to make that without governmental intervention.


Juli October 17, 2008 at 12:15 am

It’s not my ideals that are upset, and I apologize for jumping the gun. No – I certainly don’t think killing them is the answer. But Alexa isn’t writing about the children you’re teaching, which is where your comment about generalization is just as off the mark as my unwarranted generalization to you.

The laws pertaining to abortion ARE general, though, aren’t they? They apply to ethical and caring women just as much as they do to terrible unethical ones.


deezee October 17, 2008 at 1:15 am

Thank you for writing this.


Elizabeth October 17, 2008 at 1:30 am

This is a terrible, beautiful entry.* Would you mind if I reposted some of it on a private blog network I belong to (properly credited of course)?

*I mean “terrible” in the classic dictionary definition sense of “exciting extreme alarm or intense fear.” It’s the right word to describe my feelings about this entry, but I don’t want anyone to believe that I mean that this entry is “of very poor quality” when that is clearly not the case.


James October 17, 2008 at 5:34 am

I may be a man, but the issue of abortion in late-term has arisen in my life. It was neither a way for me to weasel out of the lovely child I had waited for, not was it the deceptive aim of an unwed mother and her evil man.

Powerful, thank you.


jen October 17, 2008 at 6:01 am

I had shut the debate off early and hadn’t known about this until I checked a little pregnant yesterday and saw your tweet about it.

You piece is very poignant and eloquent. I particularly think the points you made about health insurance and well, the entire last paragraph were right on the mark.


Molly October 17, 2008 at 6:01 am

Alexa, this is powerful and incredibly well-put, and I admire your restraint. I’ve been trying to write something just like this for the last two days and am absolutely unable to say anything civil, logical, or remotely sane in the face of such total ignorant, loathesome misogyny.


tash October 17, 2008 at 6:49 am

I’m so thankful that coherent literate people like you an Julie and Cecily are writing about the air quotes because really all I’ve been able to muster is a “fuckity fuck” and a few tears myself. As one of those late term hypotheticals where my own health would not be called into question but my child’s certainly would be, I also find myself tearing up when BOTH candidates speak of this like something we lust for but can’t have. Little do they know about me and my daughter, and little do they know that a Sophie’s Choice of this type hardly counts as one when it’s met with profound grief on the other side.

I’m still in the middle of coffee number one so I’ll just leave it at that with a profound amount of thanks.


elizabeth October 17, 2008 at 6:54 am

Amen, Alexa. Amen.


michael October 17, 2008 at 6:58 am

Well said!!!


Cecily October 17, 2008 at 7:05 am

It sounds like you and I have an awful lot in common–including our reaction to McCain’s statement. Bastard.

I am so sorry you went through that. It sucks, doesn’t it?


Sarah TX October 17, 2008 at 7:34 am

I am so… grateful that women like you and Julie are stepping up to tell your stories. Politicians stay away from medical decisions, period. When it comes to late-term abortions, it is such a strawman argument to claim that women are having them on a whim. I think it’s something like 0.08% of abortions occur after the 22nd week. I hope that if I’m ever in the situation you describe here, I live in a country where my options are open to me.


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