So many ridiculous antichoice bills are introduced on a regular basis that, after a while, they start to blend together — a forced ultrasound here, a 24-hour wait there. This heartbreaking Texas Observer story, written by a woman affected by Texas' new sonogram law, is a necessary reminder that the laws we read and talk and tweet about are already stripping women of their basic rights.
Carolyn Jones and her husband learned halfway through her pregnancy that their baby was severely ill — even if he made it to term, his brain, spine and legs wouldn't develop correctly and he would need a lifetime of medical care. The couple, who already has one healthy child and very much wanted another, agonized over the decision to get an abortion, but decided it was the right thing to do:
The surgical procedure our counselor described was horrific, but then so seemed our son's prospects in life. In those dark moments we had to make a choice, so we picked the one that seemed slightly less cruel. Before that moment, I'd never known how viscerally one might feel dread.
Because Jones lives in Austin, Texas, where a litany of invasive antiabortion laws have recently been implemented, the decision to terminate her pregnancy was the beginning of a horror story for the "practical" couple that was "so predictable that friends forecast our milestones on Facebook." The doctor who broke the news had to refer Jones to a different specialist, since the hospital she works for is Catholic and doesn't allow abortions. A new state law requires that women wait 24 hours before having an abortion, and Austin only has one clinic that provides second-trimester terminations, so the doctor stressed they visit a specialist for a second opinion as soon as possible as to not encounter long wait times. After meeting with a few more doctors, Jones and her husband went to Planned Parenthood, where they were told about another new law that had just come into effect that required her to have another ultrasound, hear a doctor describe her baby, and choose between seeing the sonogram or listening to the baby's heartbeat. She then had to wait a full 24 hours before returning for her abortion. Jones writes:
"I don't want to have to do this at all," I told her. "I'm doing this to prevent my baby's suffering. I don't want another sonogram when I've already had two today. I don't want to hear a description of the life I'm about to end. Please," I said, "I can't take any more pain." I confess that I don't know why I said that. I knew it was fait accompli. The counselor could no more change the government requirement than I could. Yet here was a superfluous layer of torment piled upon an already horrific day, and I wanted this woman to know it.
But the Planned Parenthood counselor had no choice but to comply with the law, and the doctor later told Jones that he could lose his license if he didn't describe her baby's development. Jones later learned that she could have avoided the "detailed description" part of the sonogram law because, given that her baby had an irreversible abnormality, she was one of the women the state considered "morally acceptable" to have an abortion — but she would still have to wait 24 hours before actually terminating her pregnancy. (Planned Parenthood didn't realize she was exempt because the law is so new.)
"My experience, it seems, was a byproduct of complex laws being thrown into the tangled world of abortion politics," Jones writes. "But what good is the view of someone who has never had to make your terrible choice? What good is a law that adds only pain and difficulty to perhaps the most painful and difficult decision a woman can make?"
Her entire story is hard to read but definitely, definitely worth it.
'We Have No Choice': One Woman's Ordeal with Texas' New Sonogram Law [Texas Observer]
Image via Lilyana Vynogradova/Shutterstock.