I used to believe that outlawing abortion would reduce their number and save babies’ lives. Then I became a mom to a child with special needs and faced just how complex pregnancy and birth really is.
My oldest daughter, Elli, died at the age of 8. She was born with 5 congenital heart defects, underwent four open-heart surgeries before she turned 4-years-old, suffered a brain injury that left her with cerebral palsy, and spent her 8 1/2 years of life helpless in a wheelchair, and unable to speak.
Her healthcare costs alone were nearly $1 million dollars — and she only lived 8 years. The costs to us as caregivers were far greater.
I quit my job to care for her because we couldn’t afford to hire a nurse. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been a single mom.
Elli rarely slept through the night, so I didn’t either — for years.
We had to manage Elli’s complex schedule of administering a special high-calorie formula through feeding tubes, along with oxygen and medications, and take her to undergo countless medical tests and procedures, and separate occupational, physical and speech therapy sessions every week. We bought wheelchairs, standers, walkers, leg braces, custom orthotics, and home and vehicle modifications.
Elli required special education services, an IEP, and full-time aid from the school.
I spent hours every week mediating between healthcare providers and the insurance company. They wouldn’t talk to each other, so I would call one, then the other, back and forth, to get a bill paid.
The cost of caring for Elli was immeasurable, and then she died. Not everyone can do what we did. I barely managed, and I have a college education and a husband with a job at a Fortune 50 company.
Seven years after Elli was born, my husband and I sat in another ultrasound procedure room listening in stunned silence as a doctor informed us that we had another baby with severe, life-threatening heart defects — as complex as Elli’s. They shared a range of possible outcomes and options including terminating the pregnancy.
Being human can be tragic and horrifying. Go walk the halls at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and see the children with ventilators mounted to their wheelchairs because their bodies are too weak to breathe on their own,
...bald children pulling IV poles dripping poison into their veins in hopes it will kill their cancer,
...toddlers with feeding tubes coming from their noses, taped to their faces and dangling down their backs,
...teens whose brains are damaged and will never function past the level of a toddler, no matter how old their physical bodies get.
The healthcare decisions we have to make are often choices between equally awful options. These decisions are deeply personal, heavy with ramifications, and infinitely nuanced based on each individual person and their circumstances. In healthcare, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
I don’t know anyone who is “pro-abortion.” Do you know anyone who is “pro-chemotherapy” or “pro-radiation” or “pro-appendectomy”? What does that even mean? We choose those things when we have to. We alone can make those decisions because we alone have to live with them. In these moments of grief, fear, and decision, the last thing we should have to consider is, “What would city council say?”
The “sanctuary city for the unborn” legislation passed by Mason City Council is a massive overreach. It also criminalizes "aiding and abetting" a woman seeking an abortion. The "findings and declarations" sections explain that this includes logistical assistance like giving rides, advice, and money, and provides the example of employers and insurance plans covering the procedure as criminal.
Families like ours will find themselves in a catch-22 — face the massive cost of caring for a child with a devastating diagnosis or pay out-of-pocket for an abortion. Nor can anyone legally provide them money without breaking the law!
The Mayor of Mason and her three partners on city council have chosen to forcibly insert themselves into our deeply private decisions without our consent. Perhaps a better description for this is “legislative rape.” It serves one purpose: to satisfy their appetite for power and provide council member Kathy Grossmann with fodder for her run for state representative.
I am one of more than 200 members of the Mason Business Community who have signed an open letter in opposition of the Mason abortion ban and in support of defending gender equality, independence and health for all in the workplace. We are pursuing a referendum on the ordinance and have set up a GoFundMe to cover the legal fees associated with such an effort. Also, we are still adding signatures to an open letter to Mason City Council from the business community. View the letter at masonopenletter.com.
Joy Bennett is a marketing and communications strategist and founder of Jumpstart Marketing. She is passionate about bringing people together by cultivating dialogue, listening and empathy. She and her husband Scott have been married since 1998 and together have four children, three living. They live in Mason with their three kids, two dogs, and two cats.
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