I’m about to get a little graphic. I’m sorry to those it will inevitably make uncomfortable. I really don’t want to upset anyone. I hate conflict and I know I’m probably not going to change anyone’s mind, but the Supreme Court’s ruling on overturning Roe v. Wade is a stark black and white solution to a complicated and multifaceted, gray area.
No one deserves to hear my grief, no one is entitled to it, but my life, my existence, and my baby’s is in that grey area, so I have to say something.
My second miscarriage was an ectopic, or a “pregnancy of unknown location,” my doctors could never agree. But as with any pregnancy not in the uterus, my Littlefoot (that was what we called her) was not viable. I desperately wanted her. I cried until I thought the world would swallow me whole and I begged for a miracle while my heart shattered. My doctors said my numbers were slowly dropping, indicating I was miscarrying anyway and it was probably safe to wait it out on my own, or I could opt to take a shot of methotrexate. It’s a cancer drug and it’s commonly used in non-emergent ectopic pregnancies as a safe and humane option to stop the embryo and placental cells from dividing (which cells can do even in a miscarriage) to the point that it ruptures a fallopian tube, causing internal bleeding that at best can lead to infertility, and at worst death if not caught in time.
I opted to let things happen “naturally.” I had no idea how bad it could get. I steadily bled for over nine weeks straight by the time it was over. My insides cramped so violently, and for so long, it became the norm to pass out in my bathroom in the middle of the night. I never told anyone because my baby was dead and I didn’t care at that point if she took me with her, and I also couldn’t bear the thought of not keeping her with me for every single second I could.
At one point I lost control of all bodily functions and soaked through the bed with blood and everything else you can imagine. I sat helpless on the floor crying while my new husband changed our sheets. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, for his sake and mine, and I found the will to call and ask for the injection to end what had become a physical nightmare. I was still technically about 13 weeks, and it took another two for my pregnancy hormone to get below non-pregnant levels.
For my third pregnancy, my little girl stopped growing, but her placenta did not. Like with Littlefoot, my body couldn’t quite figure out that my baby was gone but we found out earlier. We found out on vacation, and I stayed in bed and cried so hard my chest felt like it was caving in. I didn’t know my heart was capable of further damage, but after that I knew what it was like to physically feel like your heart is breaking, and that there will always be a hole there. We named her Hope. This time I was offered a D&C and I gladly accepted. If I did this, they could test the tissue and maybe they could tell me why my baby was dead, and maybe the knowledge would save our future children.
In this case as in with most miscarriages, sepsis was a risk also because like I said, my body couldn’t understand my baby was dead and was carrying dead tissue like a living pregnancy. But it turned out I started actively miscarrying the night before the procedure. The violent cramps had me seeing spots and blacking out in the bathroom once again. The next day at the office I thought for sure I had bled so much she had to be gone and they wouldn’t be able to do the procedure. But she was still there, still no heartbeat of course but the placenta was hanging on. I cannot imagine going through another night like that one.
You can’t imagine the pain, feeling like your internal organs are on fire, trying to push their way out of your body and with every movement you feel the impact of it rocking your bones. I’ve had friends who are braver than me, decide to go through that at home and end up in the ER hemorrhaging anyway. I was seven weeks along when I said goodbye to her.
The thing is, the same treatments and procedures for abortions, including medications and D&C’s, are the standard of care for safe medical intervention of miscarriages. They are abortions, and I have had two. There is not much I wouldn’t have done to save my babies and myself from that, to have not needed to have those abortions. But the need was there, and I’ll forever be grateful I had the option. The connotations with the word have been made ugly, and part of me is still ashamed for that reason alone, even though I have no reason to be.
There is no difference in medicine between abortion and miscarriage. Some textbooks still call them “spontaneous abortions.” These are lifesaving treatments that can greatly reduce emotional and physical trauma as well as protect future fertility. The line is so blurred there is no way this ruling will have anything but a devastating effect on people like me.
It changed me forever but I had an income, mostly good medical care and insurance, and support and love and reasons to keep going, people to fight for me. But the ones this will hurt the most are not in my shoes, they’re the ones already hurting, now. And the effects on them will be immediately terminal. These are some of the many reasons that ungodly numbers of women died in pregnancy and childbirth before modern medicine. And to be as advanced as we are, an embarrassingly high number still do. Ignorance to simple biology, science, these medical procedures, and politics and religion interfering with medicine are completely bullshit reasons for many of these deaths that should not exist today.
I just had my fifth miscarriage the first week of February. Unless you’ve gone through it, you can’t understand what it’s like, especially one that needs medical management. If you care to know anything about medicine, miscarriages kill women. They’re not just tragically sad because you lose your baby. They’re dangerous. Yes, they’re common and many women have them home and alone, with no complications and never speak of it. And maybe I’ve seen too much living through what I have and being in the medical community, but I feel that makes me qualified to have an educated opinion on this, at least greater than that of a politician with no medical background or training. Politicians have no business in medicine and healthcare, yet they are arrogant enough to have no desire to even research what they don’t know.
Here’s some actual research for you: In countries where abortion is outlawed, women die all the time. And the babies in these cases, if even alive at that point, still die when the mother dies. And the number of people who actually have late term abortions in America? Less than 1%. At that point I guarantee no one is having an abortion because they just don’t want a baby. Those are the people who have a nursery, who have a name picked out and for an unimaginably unfair reason have had to choose to say goodbye to their child.
I’ve known people who did this rather than watch their child be born in excruciating pain only to die immediately after, and I’ve watched that happen too, and if you’ve seen that, you would never be selfish enough to choose anything but the safe end of a pregnancy. None of these people have had to watch a terminal baby struggle for breath, being doped up on morphine to ease their excruciating pain until they mercifully die hours later. None of them have had to look a mother in the eye and give her that news, knowing she would give her soul to save her child and watching it cleave in two as she realizes she can’t. Is that God’s will? Is it God’s will that a mother have to die giving birth to a baby knowing it will kill her, and leave her other children and family behind? Who gets to decide that one life is worth more than another?
If you’re looking in the Bible, I guess it’s up for interpretation but from what I know it’s pretty cut and dry that it’s not up to us, and certainly not a governing body. Is it God’s will that children be forced to break their bodies and die by giving birth to their rapist’s baby? Because that happens. And our country would rather punish the child than the person who did that to her.
If you call yourself pro-life, you believe this is right, but of course you don’t, because you like most people whether it’s this situation or another, live in that grey area too. But in our country the penalty for a child getting medical treatment so she won’t die is now harsher than the punishment her rapist would face for putting her there. None of these judges or politicians have had to care for a child victim of rape. None of them have cared for a victim of domestic violence either, women beaten so badly their faces are unrecognizable, but they have to go back home because they can’t leave the kids they were forced to have with him.
With the lack of healthcare, education and support, and maternal death rates, the U.S. already wasn’t much better than in the countries abortion was already banned. But our abortion rates have decreased since Roe v. Wade. And that’s saying something because you know thousands went unreported before it was legal. Abortions decreased because access to healthcare and a doctor’s medical opinion, not a politicians, is actually proven to decrease death and abortions. 1 in 4 women have had an abortion in the U.S. for multiple reasons, all valid decisions made with privacy that is now no longer afforded to us.
My stories are not by any means the exception. In our country, none of us should have to share them to prove we matter and it’s sickening that we feel we have to. The treatment for ectopic pregnancy is abortion. The treatment for a miscarriage that won’t pass is abortion. The things I’ve seen as a nurse, are very real, and I’ve seen a fraction of what others have. Abortion is healthcare because if you don’t get one in those and other situations, you die.
Restricting access to abortions this will not end abortions. You can’t put a blanket ban over something with so many complicated considerations. These bills are written to be ambiguous enough that they in no way shape or form will protect anyone in these “exceptions” I’ve talked about. They will simply and tragically just kill those of us who need the most help, babies and innocent children included. I cannot imagine living in a world where I couldn’t get that shot when I needed it, where I couldn’t request testing of my baby’s tissue for answers, and where I couldn’t test my embryos after going through three grueling rounds of IVF to make sure they wouldn’t die or risk my health.
I can’t imagine not even having the option for the medical care that gave me the chance to bring home a living child. I certainly can’t imagine, after wanting to die after losing my babies, someone could have the right to question me and potentially even prosecute me for their deaths. Maybe you would’ve made different choices than me in the same situations, but that’s the point, you had the right to choose what’s best for your body and your family. And now, that right has been stripped from both of us. Women have been fighting for equality since the beginning, with a constitution that doesn’t even mention them. Without basic control and choice over what happens to our bodies, we are certainly not equal now.
Some states have promised to go after assisted reproductive technology, make parts if not all of IVF illegal. Depending on how you interpret the Bible, some feel personhood begins at fertilization. So, what about my little frozen embabies in storage? I will lose my mind if anyone takes away my rights to them or makes them illegal. Tell me that my miracle baby growing healthy inside me should be illegal, or shouldn’t be here at all. That is not pro-life.
Based on science and how I interpret my religion, I don’t believe personhood begins at fertilization, and I believe we have what advanced medical treatments and knowledge we have for a reason. But in our country no one has the right to impose religious beliefs on me otherwise, nor I to them. But this ruling forces this and is the building block to take down democracy as we know it, and it will not stop here. These justices were appointed to uphold our rights in the constitution and the laws of our country without bias or prejudice, and they and the people that appointed them have failed immeasurably.
So are they going to make adoption easier? Less expensive? I can assure you, I would’ve adopted every neglected baby I could, but IVF was the “cheaper” and certainly “easier” option for us in our position. If the issue was about saving babies and not rights and control, they would make healthcare free and accessible. Again, this is actually proven to reduce abortion and maternal death. Banning abortion and making it criminal will do the exact opposite, make no mistake. If it was about babies, we would have more systems in place to make sure automatic machine guns don’t end up in elementary schools.
Private, legal guns kill more men women and children than abortion every year. If it was about babies, our foster system wouldn’t be an absolute mess and all children would have at least basic access to food, shelter, education, and healthcare. These things our government could actually do, and it would save thousands of lives, and they haven’t.
This is not about “murdering” unwanted babies. No one is pro murdering babies. If you think that’s what has been happening and what you’ve been fighting against, you haven’t looked at the data, and you’ve been lied to. This is about control, keeping marginalized communities and people who need help desperate, and stripping women of a right over their own bodies so wealthy people in power can stay there comfortably. Our daughters will grow up in a world where they have less control and rights than the generation before, for the first time in history.
If you think you’re pro-life but any of these things upset you and you still believe “some” of these things should still be allowed, you are not actually pro-life. You are pro-choice because you care about life, and I’m begging you to read up and learn what this truly means. Because this ruling allows for none of that grey area you and I live in, to exist.
Clara Burrus is a nurse living in Western North Carolina.
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Thank you, Clara, for you willingness to share your costly experiences with all of us. I pray everyone listens carefully to the facts you have presented and then goes and does their own research by going to sites connected to professional medical organizations like the CDC and NIH.
Thank you for sharing your story and speaking the truth. Abortion is life-saving healthcare for so many women. It's essential that we preserve access to it for people's health and safety, the same way we expand access for other life saving treatments. So many people, including several in the comments here, aren't educated about what procedures are considered abortions and how incredibly restrictive and ignorant these abortion bans are, and how many women will suffer and die for lack of access to safe abortions. Thank you for sharing a story that will hopefully open people's eyes.
Brave woman to share your story, my compassion and caring to you and thank you.
I'm sorry that you have had these experiences. The "treatments" you received are VERY different from abortions. They are not considered abortions. The treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion. Miscarriages are not abortions. The D&C you had was not an abortion. Again I'm sorry for the pain you have experienced.
Thank you for sharing your intimate and emotional story with us. Sending you Love & Light.
Thank you for sharing your intimate and emotional story. Sending you lots of love and light.
This article addresses the harsh reality now facing women. Those with the least experience make decisions for women in the name of religion and politics. A very courageous story that all of us need to hear. Thank you for the willingness to speak out.
The overturning of Roe doesn't affect what she had to do. I am saddened by the fallen state of the world and the fact things such as happened to her happened. But, it is what it is. My sister-in-law did not carry any baby to term. All died in the womb for reasons unknown.
" No one is pro murdering babies."
She isn't up to date on that matter. Pro-aborts are quite Ok with murdering babies. Pro-choice is not the proper term.
"Private, legal guns kill more men women and children than abortion every year."
This statement is bunk. She is either a liar, or she simply has no knowledge of what is happening.
Thank you, Clara, for sharing your story and your eloquent words for unimaginable circumstances. I stand with you as pro-choice!