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.