Statement of Dana Weinstein as delivered at a press conference today with House Judiciary Democrats:
Good afternoon. My name is Dana Weinstein. In July 2009, I was happily pregnant and excitingly, anxiously expecting the arrival of our second child. For nearly 8 months, I had been loving my baby in utero and explaining to our then 2.5 year old son that he was going to become a big brother. Never, EVER did I imagine I would need to have an abortion...and certainly not one so late in my pregnancy.
At my 28 week sonogram the ventricles in our baby’s brain measured a little elevated and my perinatologist arranged for further testing. Two weeks later, I had an MRI performed to see what was going on inside my baby’s head. It was then that we learned the shocking, horrific, and devastating news. Our baby was missing a main piece of its brain…the part that connects the right and left hemispheres literally wasn’t there. It never developed. This is known as agenesis of the corpus callosum. Even worse, the surface of the brain was malformed and severely underdeveloped, a condition called polymicrogyria. Additionally, where brain mass and tissue should have grown and been plentiful, only large pockets of empty space and gaping holes existed. Despite all the prenatal care and testing I had throughout the pregnancy, this was not detected until I was seven and a half months along. And no amount of surgery, medicine or physical therapy could reverse, improve, or fix this horrendous diagnosis.
We learned that because of the severe brain anomalies, our baby would have had on-going seizures 70% of the time. And that was best case scenario. Our daughter would lack the physical coordination to suck, swallow, feed, walk, talk or know her environment—if she survived birth at all. The sonogram already showed the baby was not swallowing. And in hindsight, I believe her constant, non-stop movements—movements that I so lovingly joked about throughout the pregnancy as being payback for having a calm, easy-going first child—were the result of spasms caused by the brain abnormalities.
If we had carried our baby to term, we would have needed a resuscitation order in place prior to giving birth as she was incapable of living without significant medical assistance.
We did not want our daughter to exist solely because of machines. We did not want to bring a child into this world that would only be here in a vegetated state, if at all. For our baby, for our son, and for our family, my husband and I made the heartbreaking decision to terminate the pregnancy. We did what I believe was the most loving, humane act a parent could do—put an end to our baby's suffering.
Because I was late in my pregnancy, I had to travel to Colorado to one of a handful of facilities in the U.S. that provides later abortion care. It was awful to go through the hell of ending my very much wanted and loved pregnancy and to have to do it across the country, so far from my home and loved ones.
My upfront medical expenses were $17,500, which does not include an additional $3,000 in travel costs to obtain care. Since I had to go to an out of network provider, the maximum my insurance would cover was just $1,200. With the help of legal counsel and more than a year of appealing, my insurance company finally agreed to cover the total cost of my abortion care. The financial stress caused my family unnecessary anxiety during an already heartbreaking, devastating, and frightening time.
To be forced to carry a pregnancy to term because of a lack of financial resources or insurance coverage is beyond cruel, especially in situations like mine. The week I had to endure between learning the devastating diagnosis and when I could begin the termination process was agonizing. Each constant movement of my baby—movement that for months had brought me such joy and reassurance—was like a dagger to my heart. Looking down at my full pregnant belly knowing how sick my daughter was, and knowing that she would not live was horrendous. To force women to endure this for weeks or even months and give birth because of a lack of medical coverage is outrageous.
I am appalled that Congress is taking up this issue again. I can’t help but ask…what about circumstances like mine? How can families facing such a terrible prognosis be omitted from abortion coverage? We exist and as painful as it is to talk about, we need to be heard and we need to be considered.
To say I am angered by those who are trying to prevent abortion coverage in the health care system is an understatement. I applaud our leaders and members of the Judiciary Committee here today who are taking the brave step in fighting against those trying to prevent women like me from being allowed to have the option to terminate my pregnancy and to have insurance coverage.
I am speaking today for all the women who are too fearful or made to feel ashamed, to put a face on abortion. I’m speaking today on behalf of my daughter, who I know is in a much better place. And, I’m speaking today for all of the women, who like me just a year and a half ago, never imagined they would need the help of an abortion.
Thank you for your time.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in North America. Our mission is to ensure safe, legal, and accessible abortion care to promote health and justice for women. Our members include health care professionals at clinics, doctors' offices, and hospitals, who together care for more than half the women in North America who choose abortion each year. For more information, visit our website at www.prochoice.org.