HEALTH vs. LIFE: Trying to clear things up

Healthy discussion going on over in the comments of my last post (person with fake emails and all caps not withstanding). But the core of the issue is the line between life and health and who gets to choose.

First off, let’s talk about some different terms.

Technically, the term "Partial Birth Abortion" does not apply to any currently known and used medical procedure, as Maura stated in her comments. However, it is "assumed" that they are usually referring to the procedure known as a D&X.

D&X refers to a procedure called an Intact Dilation and Extraction. The benefits on this procedure are many, including the fact that having an intact fetus allows the family to view the remains if they choose. Remember, also, that this method is used often when a baby has already died. And, as Aurelia pointed out, "is quite often needed for babies with hydrocephalus or severe
cranio-facial disabilities who cannot be delivered vaginally with their
skull and brain intact

According to this survey, this procedure is performed in 0.17% of all abortions. In other fucking words, HARDLY EVER.

D&E is a different procedure, a Dilation and Evacuation. This procedure is done between 12 and 20 weeks gestation. In this procedure, the fetus is usually, well, separated to allow for easier evacuation of the uterus. 11% of all abortions occur in the second trimester, according to the same study above.

I hope that clears up some confusion for folks about the terms.

Now, the problem with the ban is that the language is NOT CLEAR about which procedure is being banned. Part of the issue is the fact that there are many medical terms that fall into this category–this New York Times article refers to both "intact dilation and evacuations" AND "intact dilations and extractions". The line between the two procedures is very small–and doctors now face, as Maura mentioned, CRIMINAL prosecution for crossing that line–and sometimes they don’t know what procedure a woman need until they’ve actually started the surgery.

Do you see the problem? They are taking a medical decision out of the hands of the people involved–the patient AND the doctor.

Personally, I do not know which procedure I had. At 22.5 weeks gestation (when my pregnancy ended–and that is based on my last menstrual period, remember, not the date of implantation, so the fetuses were really 20.5 week along) I was right on the line between trimesters. Plus the fact that there where two fetus (one barely alive, and one dead) could have impacted which surgery I had.

Other than having a medical termination, the options open to someone in my position are usually either a) emergency c-section, and b) induced delivery.

My doctor believed–given my particular circumstances–that it would be better for both my short term and long term health to not cut open my body if at all possible. My health was in a precarious state, and the option of a medical termination was the fastest, safest, and least complicated procedure to use. It also preserved the health of my uterus for future pregnancies.

Also, my doctor (you know, the man in the room with me, the one with a medical degree and my chart in hand? that guy) knew that inducing me, with my insanely high blood pressure, would be likely to cause me to have a stroke.

Please remember that even if my twins had both been alive, THEY WOULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED. Do not tell me they would have, because you are wrong. There have been NO DOCUMENTED CASES of babies born that early surviving–I don’t care what pro-life websites you send me links to that say differently. THEY ARE LYING.

Trust me. Don’t you think that I wanted those babies and would have done anything I could to save them? And don’t you think that my doctor–who knew about my struggles to get pregnant and called the day of my surgery "the worst day of my professional career"–would have told me if that was possible?

Lastly, let’s discuss, using me as an example, the difference between HEALTH and LIFE.

Where do you draw the line? Was my life actually at risk at the moment they chose to terminate the pregnancy? Well, my blood pressure was going higher and higher and they weren’t able to get it under control with the medications they had available. My kidneys has begun to shut down and I’d stopped producing urine. But I was alive. I could have remained alive, possibly, under those circumstances for a while. Maybe they could have pushed it until I actually began to have seizures. Or maybe until I had a stroke. Or, maybe, since even after a stroke and having seizures I would have still been alive, maybe they would have to wait until after I felt into a coma. But wait! If I’m in a coma, I’m still alive, right? Even if my brain has been irreparably damaged, I’m still ALIVE. Right?

So, my point is, sure– the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban" has a provision for the LIFE of the mother. But there is NO PROVISION FOR HER HEALTH. Or the health of her uterus, or her future children.

To sum it all up, if I hadn’t had the procedure that I had, Nicholas, Zachary, me AND Tori would all be dead.

Got it?

Comments Closed


  1. says

    all i can say is i feel for you having to defend yourself time after time. I also feel for everyone who is having their personal choices pre made for them by the USA legal system. that is what sucks totally. whether you agree with ‘abortion’ or not, the very fact you are losing bit-by-bit control over your own bodies and your lives is horrible. how long before sterlisation at birth or enforced pregnancy become a reality ? I know families go through Tri18 and taken both options – to carry to term and have the baby live 6 hours and die, and terminate the second pregnany due to tri18… either option cuases grief and suffering. why should that families choices now be taken away from them ?

  2. Amy says

    How the hell do we keep the courts, politicians and right wing religious conservative extremists out of our bodies and medical care? There are more women than men &, if we would all just drag our butts to the polls we just might get things our way for a change, that’s how.
    BTW, I would vote for you should you run for any office I was eligible to have a say in . . . You ROCK!

  3. says

    Hi MLO,
    My guidelines were on from 2004. I also found this very good article by John Allen from 2003
    a good discussion here by Jim Akin
    and another good explanation of the canon law
    What I am not finding is any article that says the supreme court justices are afraid of being excommunicated, or that Kerry, Kennedy, Peolis and heck even Guiliani are excommunicated! Some may say that they have excommunicated themselves, but that’s another topic!

  4. squeak says

    Delurking to say Thank you. You always amaze and inspire (and make me laugh! :-) ). I am sorry you have to explain yourself and your decision. But thank you for sharing your heartbreaking experience. I am not a mother and I have never been pregnant, and I couldn’t imagine having to be in that situation, but reading things like this always plants me even further in pro-choice. It saddens me to know that people without medical degrees have decided that they know what is best. The decision should always be between the patient and their doctor. No one else.

  5. says

    It’s too bad you don’t get a dollar for every uneducated, misinformed, ignorant comment you get on your blog– you’d never have to work again! ;)

  6. says

    Cecily, I was lucky. My (permanent) kidney disease wasn’t joined by preeclampsia until the 31-week mark, and I have a healthy child.
    I know that I and my fetus would have died without expert medical intervention. Knowing just how dangerous pregnancy can be has turned my staunch pro-choice stance into…well, what’s stauncher than staunch? A diamond-hard commitment to abortion rights, at any stage of pregnancy, especially when the health of the woman is at risk.
    The ban that South Dakota had passed would make a woman like me continue a pregnancy, despite the fact that it would result in maternal kidney failure (dialysis, transplantation) and a sick little micropreemie (there’s no way I’d be able to make it to 31 weeks again, not with my kidneys). Absolutely no regard for my safety!
    The PBA law also disregards women’s health and safety, and it’s unconscionable. There’s no analogous situation in which men are subject to the same punishment, is there?

  7. says

    Amy @ 11:32, I think it’s only fair to point out that Roe is not a standalone case. Roe states that: “(c) For the … may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother. ” The problem, from the pro-life side, is that the accompanying Doe v. Bolton decision, health is defined as “the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age”. So under Roe, the state has to allow post-viability abortions for health reasons, and under Doe, those health reasons can be vague enough to encompass what you might call “convenience abortions”.
    Doe is the reason why pro-lifers tend to have a bad reaction to health exceptions, because there is prior case law establishing that health is a very broad concept. I think very few people who understand the medical issues involved would have a problem with D&X when there is a serious, imminent threat to the life or physical health of the mother, as there clearly was in Cecily’s case. Many of those same people would, however, be uncomfortable with D&X when the patient is, say, a distraught sixteen-year-old with an unplanned but physically normal pregnancy and a pair of pissed-off parents. Even though most of us would acknowledge that the situations are wildly different, in the eyes of the law, Cecily and our hypothetical teenage mother are equivalent. Because of this, we can’t prohibit the sixteen-year-old from having a late-term abortion without also unfortunately impacting Cecily.
    Sorry, but it’s disingenuous to talk about how Roe already prohibits “abortions of convenience” without acknowledging how Doe makes it possible to cast pretty much any reason for termination in terms of health. If we could tighten up the health definition of Doe, perhaps we wouldn’t need to argue so much about Roe.

  8. says

    I just wanted to say I read every single comment, the bad, the good and the ugly. I’m a christian woman (as you well know). I, however, am pro-choice. Because I personally would not have an abortion, but that MY PERSONAL choice (see there CHOICE). I am nobody to tell another human being what to do w/ their body. (I know…weird huh?)
    I KNOW you did the right thing because when I read your post I can feel the love that the boys still bring to your voice. I can see them playing w/ Tori in the grass chasing butterflies in the daffodils. So, with tears welling in my eyes, because I know what it’s like to lose a piece of your heart, I tell you this. God is with you and your family. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. And thank you, than you for sharing your story, your life and for educating ALL of us. The good, the bad and the ugly.
    BTW – as a christian, I believe in love thy neighbor and treat people like you’d like to be treated (I know…I’m a dying breed, lol) So I want this post to be uplifting and loving. I hope I accomplished that. LOVE YA!!!

  9. says

    Cecily, thank you for tackling this. I knew you would, but I’ve been too sputtering mad to even attempt it.
    Bless you for sharing so that others might open their hearts and learn that compassion and love reigns supreme of abstract logic and cold judgment. In fact… isn’t there something in the Bible about letting God be the judge?
    Love you. And thank you.

  10. says

    Cecily, thanks for clearing up this important distinction between “life” and “health.”
    While no one would ever choose to NEED an abortion, I feel it is so important that the option be available when necessary, particularly in instances when the life (or “quality of life,” if you will) of the mother is in danger. What on earth is gained if the mother dies – or is practically dead – and the baby dies – or is practically dead.
    I’ve been supporting pro-choice rights for more than 20 years – since I was in high school – and it scares me every time I see those rights chipped away bit by bit like this.

  11. Mary says

    Please just help me understand one thing… I honestly want to know why people choose to abort in cases like yours rather than give birth and just give it a try? Please dont get upset at my question. I just don’t understand. If your prepared for them to die, why not give them a chance to live? If they infact pass away, it was meant to be. Are you just concerned for what could happen to them should they live, meaning mental problems or such…or are you afraid that they would suffer or be in pain until they pass away? Arent they subjected to pain via abortion? I dont think they are given pain blockers beforehand are they? If they were alive, doctors would make their life comfortable and painfree, wouldnt they? Just help me and other antiabortionists understand why it has to happen this way.

  12. Amy says

    To Emma B,
    I am the Amy you were responding to from above, and I am a lawyer, so I feel compelled to respond to your usage of Supreme Court case law. I won’t go through what you posted above point by point other than to state that your interpretation of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton are seriously flawed. The Doe case involved a woman who was 9 weeks pregnant, and the language to which you cite pertains to specific portions of the GA statute challenged by that case. NOTHING in that case bears on the question of post-viability abortions, which is what I was discussing in my earlier post.
    Suffice it to say, what I posted above is true. Under Roe v. Wade and its balancing test (which weighs the constitutional right of a woman to make her own medical decisions, among other things, with a the emerging rights of a fetus), once a fetus is viable, the rights are equivalent. In other, and more practical, words, post-viability abortions may not be provided solely as a matter of convenience.
    You assert that because the health of the mother may be considered even post-viability, this leaves wiggle room that makes you and other pro-lifers uncomfortable. Putting aside the ridiculousness of your assertion that “the health of the mother” can be invoked to get an abortion for a negligent 16-year-old (and I challenge you to find me an example of that — most clinics REFUSE to perform abortions after 24 weeks, period, unless the baby is dead or is incompatible with life outside the womb), let’s just stop and consider who we would rather decide what constitutes a threat to the health of the mother such that a post-viability abortion is warranted. Your doctor? Or your congress and/or SCOTUS? I know which one I’d choose.

  13. Cecily says

    Hey guys–I’m sorry I haven’t emailed anyone–something has happened and I can’t access my account. Be patient, please!

  14. libby says

    Please actually read Cecily’s blog. The answers to your questions can be found within.
    I am so sorry. I am so sorry for all of us about the Supreme Court’s decision. I am so sorry you lost your beloved boys. I am so sorry you now seem to be the poster child for the D&X procedure. I am so sorry this brings out the ignorant fuckwits to your blog to question you over and over again. Thank you for continuing to speak out; I am so sorry you have to continue to do so.
    Your voice is so important. Thank you again.

  15. says

    Anesthetic for the mother passes to the baby, so yes, painkillers are involved.
    To say that someone facing a birth before viability is worried about “mental problems” in the baby is incredibly patronizing. Despite the propaganda, there is currently nothing that can be done for babies below a certain gestational age other than watch them die, slowly.
    You make it sound so breezy. “Oh, just give it a try.” Like its a doddle, a walk in the park.
    If you want to understand why Cecily and others do what they do, you need to listen to them, without interrupting with all the propaganda and falsehoods your brain has been stuffed with. You have to listen to what real doctors told them, to what real medical research told them, and what their own hearts and experience told them. Cecily has told her story over and over again, clearly and with so much love for her lost sons it makes my heart ache. The fact that “giving them a chance to live” was an impossibility has been address at great length, so why, why why must you throw that out there yet again?
    Cecily has been trying to help you and your compatriots understand. But you’re not listening. You’re like Charlie Brown in the classroom, all you can hear, apparently, is “wah wah wah, abortion, wah wah wah, premature, wah wah wah,” and you jump in with your falsehoods and lies and half-truths.

  16. Christine says

    To Mary:
    In some cases, the mother might be so sick that to attempt induction and delivery (or an invasive surgery like a c-section) is too risky. Cecily explains in her post that this was the situation in her case.
    Also, I think it’s important to note that many hospitals recognize that before babies reach a certain gestational age there is simply no hope, and will not even attempt to save the baby. I personally know a mom who just last month went into pre-term labor that couldn’t be stopped at a little over 21 weeks. She delivered the babies (triplets), and the babies were not even taken to the NICU, just wrapped up, handed to the parents, and allowed to die. And this was at a Catholic hospital.
    With this new law it’s entirely possible that someone as sick as Cecily could be forced to go through a C-section at great risk to her health, and then have her baby be simply allowed to die anyway, because hospital policy dictates that no life-saving measures be given before x weeks.
    Finally, and I realize this wasn’t the main point of your comments, but if you seriously believe the life of a micro-preemie can possibly be made “comfortable and pain-free,” I highly suggest you talk to some NICU nurses. My babies (I have triplets) were born at 31w4d and never had any major problems, so their stay in the NICU was a walk in the park compared to some, but I still shudder to think about all the wires, IVs, needles, tubes, ventilators…

  17. says

    She delivered the babies (triplets), and the babies were not even taken to the NICU, just wrapped up, handed to the parents, and allowed to die. And this was at a Catholic hospital.
    Another part of Catholic teaching on this is that it is not immoral to decline extraordinary or burdensome care or treatment. That goes for the other end of the life span as well! Palliative care with dignity and respect is all that is required.
    A little off topic, but I think that would be a situation where a peri-natal hospice could be so helpful to the parents! Allowing them to say goodbye, collecting momentos, taking pictures, offering spiritual and emotional support. I often think that I might like to do that when my kids are grown. I think someone like Cecily would be superb in that role.

  18. andanotherthing says

    (quote from amy)”In other words, the Congress and SCOTUS have inserted themselves into the patient doctor relationship and made the decision — years ahead of time and without personal knowledge of your situation — about what is best for you and your baby. I don’t know about you, but that is not how I want my medical decisions made.

    Ya know if you really are a lawyer Amy, you might try not contridicting yourself in your statements? But your quote above takes the cake. I immediately thought of Andrea Yates (post-partum bathtub killer), and yes, there are laws against that, and
    yeah, there should be laws against
    mothers who think they are doing what is best for their children, who are not.
    So IF the PBA has been outlawed for years now, where are all of the women who have suffered or been harmed because of it?
    It was a particularily brutal form of infanticide that was called abortion. What you are saying (and the way the law reads), is that only that particular procedure is outlawed. Your hypothetical case does not apply either.

  19. says

    Amy, not to get into a sparring match with you, but a couple points I want to make in response:
    1) the Doe decision doesn’t mention viability at all because the opinion specifically states that the Roe conclusion is applicable to the Doe case. It’s logical to infer that the question of health in section IV-C is the same as is at issue in late-term abortion under Roe.
    2) The Doe opinion cites and reaffirms the earlier decision of U.S. v Vuitch, that health encompasses psychological factors as well as physical ones. If you take Vuitch with Doe, it’s hard to argue that the health definition only applies to the specific case or the language of the GA statute. The Guttmacher Institute concurs that both Doe and Vuitch are relevant to late-term abortion law, and that also Doe constructs a mental health exception to late-term abortion prohibitions.
    Re who gets to decide what’s a threat to the mother, Vuitch is the relevant decision here, stating that “the burden is on the prosecution to plead and prove that an abortion was not ‘necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or health.’. A separate part of Doe reaffirms that the physician’s individual clinical judgement is sufficient. All SCOTUS is doing, and has already done in Doe and Vuitch, is defining which factors the physician is and isn’t allowed to take into account in rendering said judgement. There are other areas, such as physician-assisted suicide and experimental treatment, where legislative and judicial issues touch upon medical decisions, so this is nothing new.

  20. Sarah says

    Luckily, I have never been forced to make a decision to have an abortion or not and believe me, there were times I was stupid in my youth and could have gotten pregnant. I have so much trouble with how this country treats young mothers–do we provide them with affordable childcare, provide them with heathcare and good schools to send their kids? This country is sliding so much in the wrong direction it makes me sick! Why does anyone think they can tell me what to believe it, how to think or what to do with my body?
    My 6 yr old asked the other day “Why do so many men run things?” Sorry to say, that’s a big part of the problem. Let’s tell them what to do with their dicks and see how far we get.
    Peace out Cecily. I’m glad to see others are as outraged as I am.

  21. says

    Cecily, I also linked to you via my blog, although the trackback isn’t showing up. Like Liz, if you don’t want the link I’ll take it down.

  22. says

    Thank you for writing it all. I understand it and I am in tears that you had to go through it. I am thankful that you and your doctor could make the decisions you made together.
    I am in tears because other women may have to fight to stay alive because of the damn fucking stupid mostly white men that run this country.

  23. says

    Cecily, as far as your email account is concerned, it may have been hacked by pro-lifers attempting to shut you down. it has happened to other pro-choice bloggers before. (They tried it with me, but it hasn’t worked so far. I’ve now copied my blog and forwarded all emails to another account just so I have duplicates.)
    Email Google/Gmail Asap via another email and they can help.

  24. says

    Thank you for sharing your story with such openness. I’ve been reading along here for a couple of years at least. Believe me, it has made an impact.
    I’m sorry for your losses, so glad you lived to have your beautiful Tori.

  25. says

    Cecily, thank you for continuing to tell your story over and over again, despite persistent commenters who refuse to acknowledge the basic facts about what happened to you (and insist on coming here to burden you and the rest of your readers with their judgments). You handle it with grace and style, but it has to get really, really old.
    You rock. Thank you for your clear voice, your bravery, your humor and for sharing it all with us.

  26. says

    My apologies to Cecily for extending this reply. Hope it is still “on point”.
    Mary wrote:
    “Please just help me understand one thing… I honestly want to know why people choose to abort in cases like yours rather than give birth and just give it a try? Please dont get upset at my question. I just don’t understand.”
    Mary, I think Cecily’s situation was definitely a “hard case”. Her life – apparently – was truly in danger and she was told that immediate abortion was necessary to save her life. That may or may not have been true, but it was all the information she had at the time. Her culpability is certainly mitigated under the circumstances.
    What’s the right course of action in this case? An attempt must be made to save all of the lives involved. None must be deliberately killed. The doctors, of course, would have had to make an agonizing judgment call about whether to deliever the babies alive or leave them in the womb. I would not dare to fault them either way.
    It might have been that removing the babies early would have led to their deaths, but death would not have been the intent of the act.
    It might have been that leaving the babies with the mother would have led to her death – and the children’s also – but death would not have been the intent of the act.
    I don’t think anyone is judging Cecily or her husband here, both of whom were faced with a tragic decision either way. The point is that hard cases are not exempt from moral scrutiny or the application of “do no harm” medical ethics. And, as the saying goes, hard cases make bad law.

  27. says

    How i *wish* i could send real hugs, the warmth and safe feeling of arms around one another through a computer to you.
    how do you have the strength to write a post, a post that must have hurt you just to type it out, to educate us, becuase we asked and had questions, and then it turns into a debate on wether you should be allowed to live?
    you are one of the strongest women I know.
    I puffy pink heart you Cec.

  28. says

    Mary’s already been rebutted well, but I wanted to lend my support to what others have said. Unless a pregnancy ends swiftly (whether through birth, for the lucky women, or through late termination), preeclampsia will progress to eclampsia, to HELLP syndrome, to stroke, to death. The only cure for preeclampsia is to get the fetus/baby out. Waiting can kill a woman. (And this is incredibly personal for women like Cecily and me, who’ve experienced this complication. If you don’t think we should have the option to save our lives, then that complete disregard for our personhood sure isn’t going to make your arguments persuasive.)
    As for seeing if 22-weekers will do OK outside the womb, no, they won’t. My cousin has been in NICU nursing for over 15 years. It is physically and emotionally exhausting to provide intensive care for a pre-viability preemie that’s going to die anyway but can be strung along for several days in the NICU first. The skin essentially rubs off. The organs aren’t developed enough to function. It’s scarcely a baby—more a fetus that isn’t developed enough to survive outside the womb. You can “hope for a miracle” till you’re blue in the face, but that doesn’t change the facts.

  29. says

    Orange -
    I agree about the viability of a 22 weeker. It is fact. That said, I think Mary is saying that it doesn’t seem quite human to kill the baby “just because it’s going to die anyway.” Shall we do that with our elderly population as well?

  30. Mary says

    Thank you, Rachel. That is exactly my point in question. If one understands the worst case senerio, why not try for the best and see what happens.
    I reread Cecily’s post where it said inducing was a precarious option, but I can’t understand where it would have been worse than actually delivering. She mentioned surgery, so it couldnt have been an easy procedure either way.

  31. Mary says

    I meant delivery (inducing) couldnt have been worse than the abortion itself. Not that delivering was worse than inducing…

  32. Echolalia says

    Uh, Mary have you ever tried to give birth with pre-eclampisa or eclampisa. I have. I was lucky that I was overdue (41 weeks) and that the high blood pressure was relatively mild. However, every time I had a contraction, my blood pressure would soar. If I had a case as severe as Cecily’s, every contraction could potentatially cause a seizure or a stroke that would result in death. Is that explaination simple enough for you to understand? Please, go pour yourself a nice steaming hot cup of STFU.

  33. Lys says

    Cecily you are so brave and I respect you so much. I hope you are enjoying the day with Tori and Charlie.

  34. says

    Apparently the anti-choice folks must be linking to Cec’s blog once again. That would explain why so many people are coming out of the woodwork to make uninformed comments that are oblivious to the facts and what really happened to Cecily during her pregnancy with her boys.
    Mary, labor and delivery is incredibly risky for women experiencing preeclampsia, which is why OB’s will not induce or move forward with a vaginal birth if the mother’s blood pressure reaches dangerous levels (which is exactly what happened in Cecily’s case.) Doing otherwise is generally considered malpractice because it puts the mother’s life at undue risk for extreme complications like stroke and death. If you took thirty minutes or so to read the archives on this site you would have learned these extremely important facts.

  35. sunflwrmoonbeam says

    A Visitor:
    I study Latin, and never once have I seen the word “fetus” used for child. I’ve seen puella, filia, filis, adolescens, etc. Never fetus. Moreover, my dictionary translates child as infans, infantis. And it translates the Latin word fetus as fruit, childbirth, progeny, pregnancy. NOT child.
    In short, you’re wrong.
    And what it seems to me that you’re saying is that Cecily should have died. So why not tell her that. Why not tell her that she should have died? That you would rather she die than have that procedure. Because that’s how pro-life you are.
    Cecily, I’m adamantly pro-choice. Prior to reading your post, I didn’t know how pregnancy or childbirth could kill a woman (other than hemorrhaging). What happened to you is so appalling and tragic, and I’m sorry. Thank you for posting this, as you have certainly educated me and it looks like many others.

  36. says

    Sunflwrmoonbeam wrote:
    “I study Latin, and never once have I seen the word “fetus” used for child … And it translates the Latin word fetus as fruit, childbirth, progeny, pregnancy. NOT child.”
    The strict translation for fetus is “offspring”, which is child for humans, kids for goats, lambs for sheep, and so on. Child is close enough for our purposes.
    “And what it seems to me that you’re saying is that Cecily should have died.”
    What I’m saying is that her child should not have been deliberately killed. Yes, there is a possibility that not killing her child might have led to her own death – women have died in childbirth since time immemorial – but no one here knows that with any kind of certainty.
    “So why not tell her that.”
    I think she understands my position.
    “Why not tell her that she should have died?”
    I don’t believe she should have died. That’s not my call. But neither do I believe that her life is more valuable or sacred than the life she was carrying. No one’s life – not Cecily’s, not yours, not mine – is so valuable that it must be preserved at any cost.

  37. says

    I’m going to exit this discussion now. I want to thank Cecily for allowing those with opposing views to make their case freely here. That does indeed show a lot of courage.
    I struggle with cases like this more than I let on. The bottom line is that we really have only two ways of making such decisions: 1. We can go with our feelings and desires and act accordingly; 2. We can defer to universal moral principles that transcend our desires.
    That’s it. If you don’t have faith in moral absolutes of any kind, then you’re just making things up as you go along. And that is mostly what I see with respect to abortion in this space. There has been no coherent moral defense of abortion in the preceding comments: just a mish-mash of hot emotional reactions and a lot of abuse directed at those who disagree. (It took me a while to figure out what STFU means but learning opportunities have been plentiful.) The utter nihilism behind pro-choice “arguments” is more disturbing than abortion itself.

  38. mary says

    To Echolalia…first question you asked me- Yes, I have delivered a baby while eclamptic. My blood pressure was out of the roof. Now mind you, I wasnt early, so not the same senerio, but dangerous nonetheless. My doc was about to order a cesarian section. Which is something Cecily could have had, which is what I was referring to as well in my other post. Whatever the means, she could have been allowed to give it a different chance. Yes, Cesarian deliveries are much harder to recover from, however a surgery was already in place to perform the abortion itself.
    And, Jeff…they (most of them anyway) always jump anyone with a dissenting view or question. I honestly do not think Cecily had the time or the mindframe to have made a decision, but my view or the discussion thereof could help someone else in the future. We all have to learn from each other.

  39. says

    Jeff, “A Visitor,” or whatever you’d like to call yourself, it truly sucks when facts don’t support your beliefs, doesn’t it? That’s some major cognitive dissonance to deal with. But the world is full of complexities that apparently don’t fit with your black and white worldview, and sometimes, like in Cecily’s case, one is forced to make the least awful of two awful decisions. To imply that the decision she made is anything less than moral is truly upsetting to me, and I’m glad you’re exiting the discussion.
    Again, Cecily, to get back to the point of your post, thank you for your wonderfully clear voice on this.

  40. says

    First, as to Catholicism, Ratzinger makes John Paul II look like a liberal. His statements from the Holy See have sent the Catholic Church even further into the Middle Ages. It is also of interest to know that in Catholic countries more women die from tubal pregnancies than any other countries – including conservative Moslem countries. I would not expect the justices to have more than a rudimentary understanding of canon law since they have consistently shown that partisanship is more important than legal reasoning.
    Second, we do help the elderly die. It is not spoken of much, but it does happen. A little more morphine than is necessary is one of the main ways – and that is why the religious nuts have caused the DEA to come down hard on doctors and hospice car workers who prescribe end-of-life painkillers. Have you ever seen someone die from lymphoma? Or multiple myeloma? Or the ravages of several other end term cancers? I have. To deny them painkillers is the new norm thanks to religious bigotry. I will never understand how anyone who calls themselves a Christian could value this life over the next. We are not citizens of this world if we are Christians.
    By the way, with multiple myeloma, there comes a point where no amount of painkiller stops the pain – the patient only has the option of going to sleep permanently. I don’t consider this suicide. And I don’t consider it mercy killing. To prolong suffering is to commit a grave sin in my mind. God does not have joy in suffering, that is the wish of man and the devil. God had no joy in the Crucifixion – that was for the evil nature of man.
    I nearly lost a dear friend from preeclampsia two years ago. She was very lucky that she and her son survived. Her husband almost had to make a horrible decision – his wife or his baby. They had discussed this possibility before they went into the hospital and had decided to save her over a baby because they were steadfast in the belief that they could either have another child or adopt.
    These are hard decisions that no asinine member of SCOTUS or Congress or the Executive branch should be involved in. I can guarantee you that if anyone near and dear to them were in such a situation they would be going to Sweden, Denmark, Japan, etc. in order to get appropriate treatment. That was how it was before Roe v. Wade.
    I have zero sympathy for so-called pro-lifers. They spend all of their time protesting instead of working with those truly in need. What about the already living who are dying from lack of proper nutrition, safe neighborhoods, etc.? Like has been said before, work in an NICU, or with the truly handicapped – then you will know.
    As to the Teri Schiavo case, only the blind cannot see when a soul has left. I have seen parents hold on past the soul leaving the artificially live body of a completely brain dead body. The disease in question has a 100% fatality rate – to say what would identify them, and I won’t do that. I’ve seen it when I worked in hospice car.
    Childbirth is not a safe thing, either. It is a lie to say it is. Reputable midwives will not tell you that nothing can go wrong – and they want to have a hospital ready in case something does go wrong. And things can go very wrong very fast during a birth.
    OB/GYNs have the highest malpractice rate because we, in the USA, perpetrate the lie that medicine – especially birthing babies – is easy. It isn’t. I’m more aware of it than most because I have a “long-tail” disease. Most physicians have never seen a patient like me, and most of the specialists in the specialty that treats me never see a patient like me. But, bad birthing situations are not a “long-tail” incident. They are all too common. And too few doctors are available to treat real women in real trouble due to the activities of the so-called “Pro-Life” movement. Nothing besides a warmongering leader has caused as much unnecessary death.
    I know from personal experience that medicine is very far from perfect. It just angers me every time I hear some pro-lifer spout off about things they really know nothing about. And this is leading to legislated medicine. Granted doctors sort of invited this in during the middle of the 20th century when they went gung-ho for AMA licensing.
    Bottom-line, the science does not support the position of the pro-lifers. And what we saw was a defeat of science in the Supreme Court. I am not anxious for them to rule on educational issues such as Evolution vs. Creation.
    Compassion doesn’t really enter into it either. These folks can’t wrap their heads around the realities that come from making these kinds of decisions. No one wants to take a life. Sometimes, though, it is necessary – especially when that life is endangering another.
    I wish more people could see how dangerous this particular ruling really is.

  41. Elle says

    Cecily there are so many of us out here who should be so grateful for the strength that has allowed you to write posts like this time and again. It is clear to me that you have had an impact on so many people — both in terms of support for those who have had similarly heartbreaking experiences and also by presenting a scenario that many anti-abortion folks had never considered and thus helping them soften their views somewhat. You have really made a difference, likely far beyond what you realize, and that is a wonderful tribute to your sons and daughter.

  42. Melissa says

    I cannot believe readers would give you a hard time about this.
    I am sure you were devastated and
    destroyed having to do that.
    How can people(if that is what you want to call them) be so cruel?
    Like you changed your mind and did not want your sons? OMG!
    You saved your life, no other choice was available to you.
    People , leave Cecily alone if you
    cannot be decent and kind!

  43. MollieBee says

    I support Cecily and every other woman in her right to choose what’s best for her body and her life. I also support medical staff that provides women safe choices and life saving care unconditionally.
    I promise I will never, ever stop fighting for these rights.
    Much love to everyone who feels the same way.
    *Kisses to Tori’s smooshy cheekies*

  44. says

    the next life is no more valuable than this one? wow. I can see how you could justify anything then. this brand of moral relativism is pretty scary. I think jeff said it best when he said there’s a lot of emotional attack and not much fact. it scares me that my kids will grow up in a society with more and more of the “anything goes” mentality I see here. I too am exiting the discussion before I read we are going to “help” children with cancer die, and lose my lunch.

  45. says

    wanted to add that I can’t pretend to know your pain. you know you and I are at opposite ends on our views on this but I canlt help but have the utmost respect for you. you have given “those crazy liberals” a face. I find your blog fascinating to read (though I want to scream at the computer screen often). charlie and tori ann are lucky to have you.
    all the best,

  46. stilldontunderstand says

    What happened to Cecily’s family is not what the law prevents.
    To use her sons in this way (to further a lie)-is just wrong.
    Whatever the agenda-anyone who knowingly-and I do not mean to include Cecily or the ignorant but uninformed people here, but there are those here on both sides, who would use Cecily’s circumstance, toknowingly mislead people.
    Appealing to Cecily as though she denied her son a chance at life, because his birth could kill her, is not even the issue here.
    It is clear that her son did not have a chance.
    Not even if she would have sacrificed her own life so that he could have a chance.
    Her situation exempts her from the question as the law is written.
    The partial birth abortion repeal outlaws a specific abortion procedure in which a living healthy child, who is in the process of being born to a healthy mother, is killed when his/ or her little alive body is halfway or more delivered out-of-the mother.
    For the only purpose to make sure that the baby is not completely birthed alive. Yes-its called a grey-area and they are attempting to draw a clear line at infantacide. The babies killed in this manner fight-back, fight for life or “resisitance is met” as it’s called by the way.
    Nobody wants to get graphic about it, but that’s what we’re talking about. Do those who call it a right to choose also believe in a right to fully informed consent?
    Or is it better to lie and hide behind sick and dying people’s sad situations to mis-inform people?

  47. Abigail says

    Cecily: You are so brave, in stark contrast to those who post here anonymously. I guess some will continue to “what if” and “what about” you no matter how many times you explain. It is the conservative way, after all. They love fetuses, they just hate people. Stay strong. And if you want to tell us ALL (myself included) to STFU I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

  48. Jb says

    thank you. went thru two D&E’s for medical reasons and this decision makes me sick. as far as what to do next – donation to NARAL? donation to planned parenthood? volunteering? I feel really helpless and hate that.

  49. says

    Cecily, sister, you’re not alone. We “met” a ways back because I discovered your blog and the many painful things we had in common, and this was the core thing. I am also really wrestling with this this week, but I am hoping that if we speak up it will make a positive difference in women’s lives. Something good has to come out of what we experienced.

  50. says

    stilldontunderstand, you REALLY don’t understand. No, the “partial birth abortion” is not a process in which a “living healthy child” is “killed” while being born to a “healthy mother.” It is performed in extreme circumstances when the mother and or the child are NOT healthy and not likely to survive otherwise. Get some education.

  51. says

    Dear Cecily –
    I got to you via Phantom Scribbler and Mystery Mommy (and a few others that we have in common), and I just wanted to say: Thank you.
    Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for putting your pain out there for everyone to read. It’s hard enough, having to LIVE that pain, but in an effort to further educate people, you reopen those old wounds that are still far too raw. I’m sorry that you had to undergo such a horrible decision. I’m sorry that your beloved babies were ripped from you. You both deserved so much more.
    To those of you who are using Cecily’s pain as an abortion rights platform — stop! Respect this woman’s story and her pain enough to know that you did not walk in her shoes. You were not forced to make the most gut-wrenching choice of her (or her husband’s, or family) life. Yes, you are all entitled to your opinion about abortion or adoption, or partial birth versus viability. But not at Cecily’s cost.
    Cecily, I wish you much joy. And again, thank you for making a brave decision to post about your experience. My hope is that it somehow lessens your pain to know that by posting, you will be helping someone else in this same situation. It does not make it right, but it is my hope that someone else will take your story and learn from it.

  52. Beth says

    This was a lovely and brave posting. I did want to add this note of support, via a very different situation. When I was pregnant I had an amnio as per the usual procedure. My partner and I talked about what we would do if we found that the baby had genetic abnormalities of the sort that would dramatically compromise his or her quality of life. What we arrived at was this: there was no way we could possibly know in advance what we would do, no way to know what kind of pain was worse (terminating a pregnancy or watching a child die slowly), no way to make a moral decision in the abstract. And my health wasn’t even in question, and it was under the 24-week mark in a liberal state, so we would have had time and any number of choices. There was no crisis; it was all fine, but it was extremely humbling to be reminded that you cannot always know the right thing for yourself in black and white terms, let alone for anyone else. Cecily, you had so few choices, and had to feel such sorrow in the face of the best one you could make. I am so sorry for that, and so disgusted with anyone who could pass judgment on you.

  53. actuallyyourewrong says

    Susan–I am educated on this topic. Maybe you don’t like that I used the word “kill”, instead of “terminate”, or “exterminate”? Why don’t you read the ruling as it is written?
    The one thing I’m not able to find are any instances where any woman’s health has been compromised, or any children have suffered unneeded since the ban has been in effect, or because of the ban.
    So on that I am uneducated-or maybe its because the law is working?

  54. Christine says

    I know I am late to this but, great post Cic. Well written and informative. And God, my heart breaks when I think of all you and Charlie have been through with the boys and even giving birth to Tori. Thank you for being so brave and for sharing such intimate details of your life with us.
    I just came from church and the priest brought this up, saying how it was a “victory in the war against abortion” I wanted to throw up then leave. It amazes me how ignorant people still are on this subject.
    Then, to pour salt on the wound, as I was leaving church someone handed me a petition to ban same sex marriage in my state (New Jersey). sigh.
    I just don’t why I bother…
    Great post and you guys are always in my prayers.

  55. Monique says

    Dear actuallyyourewrong,
    If you read the actual wording of the law, it NEVER states “healthy” to describe the fetus. It only uses the word “living”. So, while you may be assuming that all people perform partial birth abortions on “living healthy fetuses” as you like to say, it’s actually not true. They only need to have a heartbeat, even if they’re dying already, even if there is no hope for saving them. If it is indeed the case that this procedure was used on Cecily back when she had to have that abortion, then this is why she is upset by the ban. She is upset because if that was the best option for her at the time (according to her doctors), then if a situation were to arise again requiring it, it would now no longer be available to her (or any other woman stuck in a horrible situation like that). Do you see why she (and so many other women) are upset now?

  56. says

    I’m just so sorry that this horrible decision has been made to bring all of this back into your immediate mind. Not that the boys or what you went through ever leaves you.
    …and likewise, I’m very sorry that there are people out there that cannot have any sympathy and compassion for what the mother goes through. It’s tragic in its own right.

  57. Stephanie says

    I can’t even begin to thank you for this post. It was clear and to the point, exactly how I cannot be on this matter. I think you should have testified at the Supreme Court. Surely then they would have understood the difference between life and health.

  58. says

    I’m a bit late to the party, such as it is. And I have to say, this makes me feel rather ill.
    My soul is raging upon hearing this.
    On the selfish side, I have to say I am thankful that I am Canadian. For the moment, at least.
    There are just no words.

  59. Maureen says

    I have NEVER posted on this or any other blog – buit tonight I feel as though ou hit a nerve with me! What a horrible thing you had to go through, live with and then have defend yourself about.
    As much as I love my children, if at a point in the pregnancy before viability my life was at stake – I would have done the same as you.
    Children are a gift from god. You were a child once, and just as precious as they.

  60. Maureen says

    I have NEVER posted on this or any other blog – buit tonight I feel as though ou hit a nerve with me! What a horrible thing you had to go through, live with and then have defend yourself about.
    As much as I love my children, if at a point in the pregnancy before viability my life was at stake – I would have done the same as you.
    Children are a gift from god. You were a child once, and just as precious as they.

  61. Chiara says

    Late to the party here too, but I have been noodling on all the comments for a day or so and deciding whether to add mine. On the issue of whether the online discussion ever changes anyone’s mind, I have to say it has affected me significantly. Like most of you, I’m sure, I follow Cecily’s blog because of her compelling voice, wicked sense of humor, and all around magnetic pull. This is the part where I am supposed to say “even though we have a lot of differing political positions” – but I hate saying that because I hate to comply with the belief that friendship (of whatever level) must necessarily be divided that way. And I really don’t think it has to be, unless finding out someone disagrees with you immediately causes a recitation of talking points on both sides followed by everyone leaving angry. I am pro-life, and my belief in the humanity and life of the unborn is unshakable. However, the online world has…I can’t say changed my position, but given me an understanding of why people believe differently (rather than the straw men I used to know) and has forced me to really think through the easy answers that I used to have. For example: “Why not just give it up for adoption?” made so much sense to my teenage mind. Especially now that I have carried and birthed a child, I still would rather there be an adoption than an abortion, but I can no longer throw out that solution like it’s an EASY thing to do. Overall, online voices have deeply affected my thinking about the big picture. One woman (I cannot for the life of me remember who but I believe she was also pro-life) wrote: We have to decide whether we care more about abortion being illegal or about it not happening. That hit it squarely for me, because really, truly, I don’t care if it stays legal until kingdom come if there is another way. Personally, I think widespread Plan B would go a long way toward that goal, and I think a lot of pro-lifers are letting idealism get in the way of a real-world solution. IF it sometimes prevents implantation, as a philosophical matter I still believe that it has stopped a human life, but as a cultural matter and in the physical reality for each woman it is so vastly different from a surgical abortion. As for a situation like Cecily’s, for me it’s barely in the same category – a procedure to save her life necessarily resulted in the death of her very wanted, very grieved-over child. Back to the question of what “we” really want: Has the BPA ban saved any babies’ lives? NO, it has not. It might outlaw a certain procedure, but it just means that something else will have to be done. So, I’m not sure what the pro-life “side” has won here. Maybe a PR battle over something horrific that rarely happens. So…all of that to say: In the online world, thoughtful and meaningful writing about hard real-life situations has really changed me. Not knee-jerk, hateful, waste of time posts or attempts to suppress dissent. So when I write, I really try to keep in mind what affects me, so that I have a prayer of affecting others. (Sidebar to pro-life commenters: If you cannot write a coherent, correctly spelled sentence, please, by all things holy, keep it to yourself. You’re not helping. Really.) Cecily, you really amaze me for putting your rawest wounds out there (with your real name!) for the maddening crowds. I don’t think I have the guts for it.

  62. Rivka says

    I wonder how many women suffered from eclempsia during their first pregnancy, and now are reluctant to get pregnant again because of this ruling.

  63. Mary says

    Chiara….It always comes down to snide remarks over mispelling, doesn’t it? If that’s all you’ve got to complain about, you’re digging pretty deep.

  64. says

    Did you read David Brooks column this weekend in the Sunday NY Times? I don’t always agree with him, but I found his discussion of the current abortion debate in US well reasoned. Unfortunately, politics (and politicians) are rarely so well reasoned themselves…

  65. Danni says

    I’m so torn on this topic… Of all the studying I’ve done, I haven found so many conflicting stories… Some claiming to have proof of a 19wk surviving preemie, and myself a Godparent to a child born at 21w 4d (fetal gestation). But one study in particular hit home… They talked about how babies of the same age can vary in weight significantly, let alone development. While there may be cases where preemies have survived from 21 weeks on or whatever, there is no way each pregnancy (and fetus) will develop the same. Like you mentioned, your DOCTOR would have done everything to save your little boys. From the sounds of it, it was too late, and you did the kindest thing you could do… Despite what anyone else thinks, it was your decision to make. That should never be taken away from you and no one should ever forget the magnitude of your decision. Nor should they question your choices. They do not have to live with the consequences of that decision every day.
    You’re one hell of a woman Cec, I know I could never do this. And if I were you I would tell anyone that questions you, makes you doubt the choice you made, or in any way makes you guilty about your decision… to get fucked. Like I said, its not their choice, their life, their body, or their heartache.

  66. Danni says

    Just wanted to add!!! I agree with Chiara and well, am the same. I am pro-life but at the same time, I now understand why there is a need for abortion. Yes adoption would be ideal in a perfect world, but this world is no utopia. I was always against abortion when I was younger as so many people I knew were having abortions IN PLACE OF BIRTH CONTROL. Not taking the necessary precautions and assuming they could abort. Adoption is also great, but what if the child is not going to survive outside the womb. What if the mother cannot sustain her life and the life of her child? How does adoption fit in here. I dont want to play the part of God, but I certainly dont want any being to suffer, especially with the advances in modern medicine. I must say I wouldnt be brave enough to make the decision, and it would be left up to my family and/or partner.

  67. Sunny says

    God bless, and thank you. For whatever it’s worth, you were THE reason why I changed my mind on zero abortion. It had never entered my mind before that women can die as a direct result of pregnancy.
    Again, God bless.

  68. says

    Oh Cec, you are such a brave, strong woman. You are such a hero to me. Do I remeber correctly that you weren’t even concious enough to make this decision? That your husband had to be the one to decide or at least give the permission? Eitherway, it was extremely difficult for everyone involved and it wasn’t decided lightly. I hope that when people can’t or won’t understand it, they’ll leave you alone about it. I hope they can at least try to understand that if it was possible to save the boy’s life, you would have. It makes me sad that there are people who believe that a man should lose his entire family in one day rather than use medical technology (even when it is gruesome and requires huge sacrifice) to at least save one life.

  69. Amber says

    The fact is, and I think I speak for women everywhere, we don’t like abortion. We wish we didn’t have it. But while the medical realm is more than eager to make Viagra a prescription covered by health insurance, contraceptives are not all covered and have stipulations. In fact, when I went to get my 10yr IUD, I was commented about my age and then was questioned if I was married. I said I was, and was returned with a comment I was preturbed by. “Oh, good,” said the nurse. “If you weren’t married, we wouldn’t be able to do this. He does know what you’re doing, right?”
    Because, you know, as a woman, I have to ALWAYS get permisson from my husband to do anything so important with my body. -.-
    My thoughts are with you and for women across America. I fear the day when the law reverts to the old ways, and I am once again property of the leading male of the household.

  70. says

    I already commented, but I have to give an applause to Chiara. I loved your comment and completely agree. I come from El Salvador and see what horrible consequences come from completely abolishing abortion. Women in constant fear and pain, not just from illegal abortions, but from burst ectopic pregancies that have caused irreparable damage to the fertility of many Salvadorean women. Thank you for understanding the definition of pro-choice. It is the right to CHOOSE what you’d like to do w/ YOUR body. Thank you.

  71. says

    There are no words to express the sympathy I feel for you now and would have felt for you then, had I known you or read this at that time. It is absolutely shameful that you still have to defend yourself. It is absolutely shameful that anyone in such a precarious situation has to defend their actions to anyone. It was truly sad day for personal privacy when the Court handed down that dreadful decision. Peace to you and your family.

  72. Sophie says

    I read every word of every comment, and yet I still feel compelled to add my own personal shout out to Cecily. I get it. Thank you for telling your truth, even when so many people willfully chose to misunderstand.

  73. Anne says

    “Trust me. Don’t you think that I wanted those babies and would have done anything I could to save them? And don’t you think that my doctor–who knew about my struggles to get pregnant and called the day of my surgery “the worst day of my professional career”–would have told me if that was possible?”
    That’s the thing that gets me, do they REALLY think you went through all the stress and cost of IVF just so you could decide on a whim that you should get an abortion?
    I’m so disgusted by our Supreme Court, I don’t even have words.

  74. says

    I found my way here through a winding path of blogs and I have to say–Thank you for sharing your story. It was powerful, and powerfully told.
    Remember, also, that many of the people who are making this decision for us, have enough money that if their daughter or grandaughters got pregnant and needed/wanted to terminate, they could find a doctor, here or in another country that would do it.