Terrible New Arizona Law Forces Horrified Parents to Watch their Babies Die

Illustration for article titled Terrible New Arizona Law Forces Horrified Parents to Watch their Babies Die

It's tough to find a job in this sluggish economy, but now, thanks to a law about to take effect in the state of Arizona, there may soon be a need for something called a "fetal grief counselor" in the American Southwest. Thanks to anti-abortion lawmakers' efforts, starting Thursday, mothers of babies with fatal fetal birth defects will be forced to carry their pregnancies to term, give birth, and then watch their babies die. See? Republicans are job creators, after all.

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Earlier this year, Arizona governor/ terrible person Jan Brewer signed into law a measure that would ban abortions in the state after 20 weeks' gestation with no exception for fetal abnormality — but unlike other 20 week bans, Arizona's law counts gestation from the first day of a woman's last missed period. It's the most extreme abortion ban in the nation, and it's especially heartless when you consider that many fatal fetal abnormalities can't be detected until after that point in a pregnancy, which means that if you're pregnant in Arizona, you're placing a pretty bold bet that your fetus won't have any defects it can't survive. And if it does end up completely non-viable? Tough fetus, ladies. You should have thought of that before you had sex!

In anticipation of the disastrous effects House Bill 2036 will have on Arizona families, groups like the MISS Foundation and Embrace are directing their already-stretched-thin resources toward Arizona, where they anticipate having to help families to prepare for what's known as a "fatal birth," or the birth of a stillborn child, or a child who cannot survive for long outside of the womb. In addition to preparing families for "fatal births," they work to plan funeral services for children who are often wanted and mourned, and provide counseling to the families left behind, including women who were forced by the state of Arizona to carry a nonviable pregnancy to term.

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Of course, 20-week bans are mostly political theater acted out by anti-abortion rights lawmakers who want to sound like big men in front of their rabidly anti-choice constituents — almost all abortions performed in the US occur before 12 weeks' gestation, and, according to Think Progress, only about 100 post-20-week abortions take place in Arizona per year, so if lawmakers want to reduce the number of abortions occurring annually in the US, banning late term procedures isn't the way to do it. Although the procedure is far from common, for the 100 or so Arizona women that need it annually, a late term ban could be disastrous, forcing them to either give birth and watch their babies die or spend considerable time and money traveling out of state for the medical care they've decided is best for their families.

To borrow words from anti-abortion rights, pro-forced ultrasound Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, women can just cover their eyes!

[Think Progress]

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DISCUSSION

I've posted my story on here before, but it bears repeating.

This very thing happened to me. Recently. More recently than I can bear to think of. I found out at 18 weeks that my baby had no functioning systems of his own. No brain, no lungs, no bladder, and everything else was hugely, massively deformed. I was the only reason his heart kept beating. Even so, he had almost no amniotic fluid and would likely have died inside me before term.

Because of the safety issue surrounding potentially having necrotic tissue in my body for any period of time, every doctor I saw (and I saw a LOT of doctors) urged me to terminate. And I did. It was the worst decision (if you can even call it that) of my life. I wouldn't wish it on anybody, not even Jan Brewer.

I had 18 weeks to fall in love with my child, and signing those termination papers felt like signing my own death warrant. It was not entered into with ambivalence, with ignorance, or with relief. I knew what was going to happen, and I would have done anything to change the outcome. But I also knew that I couldn't save him, and I could only save myself at that point.

The idea that there was some moral high ground to be taken in carrying my son any longer is ridiculous. This law doesn't save babies - it punishes sluts. Sluts like me, who are in committed relationships with the fathers of their children, own homes, pay taxes, pick up trash on the sidewalk. We horrible, horrible sluts who must have done something wrong to have a baby so deformed.

And FYI, Arizona, I would have watched my son die in my arms had I been lucky enough to deliver him. Sometimes we don't even get the choice on how we'd like it all to end, but at least I was able to keep myself out of harm's way with my decision not to carry to term. I do not regret my decision. I would do it again. Taking that choice away from me would not save my son's life; it would only endanger my own.