Jenni Lane: One Among Many Women Whose Stories Michigan Lawmakers Don’t Want Us to Hear

When she was pregnant with her second child, Jenni Lane of Ann Arbor, MI, was given a routine ultrasound at 18 weeks. Jenni, her husband, and their young daughter were delighted to learn they would be adding a baby boy to their family. But later that night, a phone call brought devastating news: the fetus Jenni was carrying suffered from a severe brain malformation.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Jenni visited specialists and genetic counselors to learn more about her son’s condition. When she learned that he was unlikely to even survive full-term, Jenni made the painful decision to terminate her wanted pregnancy, a decision she understandably describes as “incredibly difficult, and so deeply sad.” By the time her termination was scheduled, Jenni’s pregnancy was in the 21st week.

If Michigan’s extreme anti-abortion legislation — HB 5711, 5712, and 5713 — becomes law, women like Jenni will no longer be permitted to make such a decision. That’s because the legislation would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks in Michigan, with no exception even for cases of severe fetal abnormality. Much like Danielle Deaver of Nebraska — where an identical ban on abortions after 20 weeks is already in place — Michigan women would be forced to continue pregnancies even in situations where there is no chance for the survival of a child, or to incur the cost and stress of travel to a state where abortions after 20 weeks remain legal.  

As painful as the experience was, Jenni says that it “would have been much less bearable if the law had forced (her) to carry the doomed pregnancy to term.” In a letter to the House Committee on Health Policy, she stated:

“I don’t like to think how I might have felt waiting to lose Robert, with people smiling at my pregnant body and holding doors open for me, while I grieved privately.”

Experiences such as Jenni’s are sadly not uncommon; the vast majority of later abortions are performed for similar medical reasons, because so many serious conditions are impossible to detect until near or after the 20-week point. Far from being an exception to the rule, nearly all of the women affected by a ban on abortions after 20 weeks will be women just like Jenni, who are making the excruciating choice to end a wanted pregnancy in which the fetus cannot possibly survive.

Fortunately, after her loss, Jenni went on to have a healthy, normal pregnancy; her younger daughter celebrated her fifth birthday late last year. And she is grateful that her access to safe, quality, legal health care did not interfere with her ability to have a subsequent healthy pregnancy and delivery. But if HB 5711 passes into law, such safe, legal care in Michigan may soon be a thing of the past. In addition to its ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, the legislation would also impose a multitude of restrictions on providers and clinics, likely forcing many to close their doors, and placing safe abortion care out of reach in even the earliest stages of pregnancy.

Jenni was unable to attend the Michigan House committee meeting on HB 5711-13 Thursday morning, but many other women with similar stories did attend, only to be blocked from testifying. Republican lawmakers in Michigan don’t want people to hear stories like Jenni’s: stories that poke a gaping hole into their claim to be concerned about the best interest of women, stories that conflict with their desire to paint all abortion-seeking women as heartless and irresponsible. These are the stories that make it clear —even to those with mixed personal views on abortion — that this legislation simply goes too far, and stands to do nothing but create more heartbreak for women in already tragic situations.

In blocking testimony from women about their experiences, Michigan lawmakers have gone beyond simply ignoring the needs of real women, and are instead actively seeking to silence women’s voices. It is often said that male lawmakers don’t care about women’s health because they are not directly affected by such issues. But in light of such harsh legislation, that assessment seems far too generous. We need to recognize these attacks for what they are: a deliberate effort to undermine the well-being and lives of women. 

In the evening following the House committee’s favorable recommendation of HB 5711-13, Jenni Lane offered these thoughts about our legislators’ shameful behavior:

I feel so angry and so deeply sad that legislators supporting these bills are willfully ignoring stories like mine.  It’s unconscionable, because women’s lives and health are at stake, and the expertise of medical providers is undermined and ignored. I have been tentative about that phrase that is used right now, the ‘war on women,’ because it sounds too much like polarizing rhetoric.  But today, my own personal hurt and anger does make me feel attacked.  When people in positions of power abuse it to implement policies that have devastating effects on other people, it’s aggressive and adversarial.  But when these legislators simply will not hear from those who they disagree with, it feels ‘un-American,’ and fundamentally wrong.”

These legislators may be able to block women’s testimony at the capitol to protect their own agenda, but they cannot silence us completely. As long as women like Jenni are willing to speak out and bravely share their stories, we all have a responsibility to make certain those stories are heard. The people of Michigan are smart enough to realize that prolonging pregnancies that can only end tragically does not protect the interest of women or families. It is a practice that would protect only the interests of those in power. And that is not democracy in action.

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  • chelley

    These situations are abomidable, and i think i would have died if abortion had been illegeal in the 7’s so there would have been 2 deaths,  1 of a human person,and 1 of an human embryo. Some people just dont get it about babies born without a brain or minimal brain.  your brain is who you are.  your not a person without a brain, your organs to be donated.  or die before viability.  Awoman does not have to suffer with this excruciating knowlege for almost 5 months,  if she cant mentally handle it.  right now organ donation at birth of anencephalies is ileagal.  thats the first thing that needs to be changed.  second it is still the womans choice, I met a man last night who was heartbroken at his girlfriends abortion.  that in no way means she shold cary a pregnancy for 9 mths and give it to him, because it was his sperm. 

       for the first time i could feel empathy for the position of a man, feeling he had no control. having said this, controlling women is not the way for men to gain control.  it is empathy for her situation which will make him feel more empowered.  again every situation is different, abortion MUST be SAFE and LEGAL< all the way to Birth.

  • nevergetfooledagain

    I’ve been in this place, too, back in 1996. We need to tell these stories! 

  • nevergetfooledagain

    I’ve been in this place, too, back in 1996. We need to tell these stories! Here’s mine:

  • oak-cliff-townie

    They have no interest in hearing your stories .

    You have to understand they have an invokable will of the higher power and the will of the power is to be praised when things are good. And it is understood that we don’t understand why things happen BUT they Happen for its ( A NON GENDER HIGHER POWER ? G*D ) reasons when the will goes another direction.


    MERCY ?  Common Decency? Not with this bunch !



  • karen-teegarden

    I posted a blog  at about your article Angi. 

  • veggietart

    Vote these guys out of office.  Since they will not listen to their constituents–you know, the people they’re ostensibly hired/elected to represent–kick them out.  I know, easier said than done, but if enough people vote against someone who won’t even let a constituent testify about a bill that might affect her, hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call.


    So who was allowed to testify at these hearings?  Religious leaders who think women should carry doomed pregnancies to term and watch their babies suffer for hours before dying?


  • kat772

    The sad reality is that this story is all too common now-a-days, the more people on this earth, the more likely we are going to have a lot of women and families faced with this exact same issue. I was 21 weeks when I found out that my ever so wanted son was going to have Trisomy 21 and that his condition was not guaranteed to change. He would definitely have a life full of medical complications and possibly be succeeded by my husband and myself. Being that I am a loving mother of 4 children, I could not bring myself to abuse a child’s life like this. Sorry if I insult people with this, but, I feel like it would be committing “Child Abuse” to knowing proceed further with a child that has absolutely NO chance to a normal life! 

    My husband and I cried for days, I am crying right now just thinking of the sadness that my entire family was faced with. But, I strongly feel that this was the absolute best choice for my entire family and I am glad that I made the right choice. No child should ever have to live a life like that and no person should conciously make the choice to bring that pain, sadness, and tragedy upon anyone!!!! 

    @ Jenni: I think you made the right decision (whether hard), I honestly feel that for your family, you made the right decision, and THANK GOD that people fight every single day to make sure that we have those choices, I am happy to see that you are carrying on the great works of women ahead and behind you that have fought and even died to make us have that CHOICE, I know I am!!!!