This article originally appeared on American Forum.
On Sunday May 30th, a man walked into a church in Wichita, Kansas and
shot to death Dr. George Tiller. Dr. Tiller was volunteering as an
usher that Sunday, so he was standing in the lobby of the church when
the gunman entered. Unfortunately, Dr. Tiller’s death didn’t really
come as a surprise; his medical practice centered on performing
abortions, particularly late term abortions, and he’d been attacked
before. Regardless of the near constant threats and harassment he
received, Dr. Tiller was committed to his work. Why? Because he
believed that "abortion is a matter of survival for women."
was for me. In October of 2004, I was pregnant with my sons Nicholas
and Zachary. With great joy and expectation, my husband, my best
friend, and I visited my doctor for a normal growth ultrasound. I was
nearly 23 weeks pregnant, hovering at the start of the third trimester.
Within moments it was clear something was wrong; one of the boys was
still and had no heartbeat. When I met with my doctor, routine
screening revealed the worst: the symptoms I’d been experiencing that I
thought were normal with a twin pregnancy were actually evidence that I
was sick — very, very sick. I was immediately admitted to the hospital
with severe preeclampsia, and though my doctors tried mightily to slow
the progression of the disease, by the morning of October 27, 2004 a
group of doctors stood at my bedside and delivered the worst news I’d
I was in advanced kidney failure. My blood
pressure was skyrocketing, and it could not be controlled with
medications. My liver was beginning to decline. The horrific headache I
was experiencing could no longer be treated with pain medications
because they were afraid it would depress my ability to breathe when I
began to have the seizures they expected at any moment. I would soon
likely suffer a stroke or a heart attack. In other words, I was going
to die unless the pregnancy was terminated. Immediately.
was no hope for my surviving son. He was too tiny and too frail to be
viable. With my dangerously high blood pressure, a c-section would have
likely caused me to bleed to death, and inducing labor would have
stressed my system too much. My safest option was the procedure known
as an intact dilation and extraction. It would save my life, and
preserve my future fertility. As luck would have it, my obstetrician
happened to be one of three doctors in the Philadelphia area that was
both trained and willing to do the procedure. Within an hour of
receiving my bad news, I lay in the surgical suite, covered in tubes
and wires, weeping inconsolably as the doctors tried to offer comfort
as they prepped me for surgery.
It was the worst day of my life.
I came home from the hospital, grieving, I searched and found other
women like me — women whose lives were saved by the late-term medical
termination of a pregnancy. I also met women who chose to spare their
children from agonizing health conditions and birth defects by having
an abortion. What I learned is that we are rare; only 1.1 percent of
all abortion are performed after the 21st week of pregnancy (according
to the Guttmacher Institute), and doctors only perform them in cases of
extreme medical need. Dr. Tiller himself never performed a late term
abortion without counseling the parents — and getting a second opinion
from another doctor. My doctor described the day of my surgery as the
worst in his professional career.
With the help of other women
like me, I grieved. I healed. I tried again, and in June of 2006, my
wild and fierce daughter Victoria was born. As I healed, I came to
realize how lucky I was. Yes, I said lucky. This was in 2004, before
the Partial Birth Abortion Ban became law, and my doctors were able to
move quickly to save my life without worrying about breaking the law.
My doctor knew the procedure and was willing to perform it; something
that has already become rare and will be rarer still if doctors have to
put their lives on the line to perform this life saving medical
procedure. If it’s you or your daughter, will you be so lucky?