Tuesday, July 9, 2019

I Shouldn’t Be Forced to Give Birth to a Baby Who Won’t Live


I Shouldn’t Be Forced to Give Birth to a Baby Who Won’t Live

Our baby had a fatal birth defect. My federal health insurance plan refused to cover the abortion.

By Sarah E. Levin
Ms. Levin is a federal employee in Pennsylvania.
July 3, 2019


When I was 20 weeks pregnant, I and my husband learned during a routine ultrasound that our baby had not developed a major portion of her brain and never would. The condition, anencephaly, a type of neural tube defect that also stunts the growth of the skull, is terminal. If carried to term, our baby would be very unlikely to survive for more than a few hours.

One in 1,000 fetuses have this condition. We had no warning signs. No indications. No idea this was coming. This was a baby we had planned for. Just three weeks earlier we had told our 5-year-old daughter that she would soon have a baby sister. We returned home from the hospital that day and had to tell her that her sister was not coming any more. It was the first time she saw me sobbing, unable to speak.

We made the decision to terminate the pregnancy immediately. Then came the roadblocks.

I am a federal worker, and the Hyde Amendment, passed by Congress in 1976, barred my health insurance company from covering my abortion, just as it does for the millions of other women who are federal employees and for the millions of women who are federal Medicaid recipients. The amendment allows abortion coverage only if the pregnancy will endanger a woman’s life or is the result of rape or incest. Some states use their own funds to cover abortions that don’t fall within those bounds. Pennsylvania, where I live, is not one of them.

I’m lucky to be a federal employee in some respects. I benefited from regular prenatal care that was entirely covered by my insurer. I benefited all the way until I needed to have an abortion, when my health care coverage disappeared — at the time I needed it most.

Because I was in my second trimester, my abortion this past June cost $2,500 up front, not including anesthesia and pathology testing; anesthesia, alone, usually costs an additional $1,100. If I were unable to afford the upfront costs, as would be the case for many Medicaid recipients, I would have had to carry my pregnancy to term.

Lost in the conversation about forcing women to carry to term is any acknowledgment of the mental toll it can have, especially on those of us whose baby is likely to be stillborn, as about 75 percent of those with anencephaly are, or to die shortly after birth.

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What about my husband, who would also miss work, share in our trauma, and require his own mental health care to work through his pain?

And then there is my 5-year-old daughter, who would have to bear my grief while watching my pregnant stomach swell for another 20 weeks, and know that a baby is coming, but not one who would ever be able to be a sister to her.

I was fortunate enough, despite the financial burden, to still have a choice. Some states have recently passed laws banning abortions.


Still, the decision to terminate didn’t lead to the fast abortion I had hoped for. First, I had to sit through the state-mandated counseling as laid out in Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act, which is designed to dissuade me from having an abortion. The law also requires a 24-hour waiting period after “counseling” before the two-day procedure could begin. My hospital provided counseling only on Mondays at 4 p.m., so I had to wait a week. That’s a week in which I felt my baby kick constantly, a week in which my family began to mourn a loss that I hadn’t even begun to grieve for, because how could I when she was still growing inside of me?

Waiting one week for the procedure was cruel. Waiting 20 more weeks would have been intolerable.

This abortion wasn’t a choice. It was an urgent medical necessity.

Unfortunately, the courts have sided with the government when the amendment has been challenged. In 2002, a federal worker who also had a baby with anencephaly sued the government for its refusal to pay for her abortion. She won the first case but then lost the appeal. That means that the federal government continues to choose to subsidize the increased cost of delivering a baby with anencephaly as compared to ending the pregnancy. Deliveries typically cost $30,000 and $50,000, and many anencephalic babies are delivered by C-section, which is even more costly and carries significant risk to the mother. Then there’s the medical care required during the short span of life the baby may have (very few have lived past their first birthday).

This cannot be what we want for our federal workers, their families, and for Medicaid recipients who are some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society. My employer, the largest in the country, made an immoral decision to refuse me healthcare. It imposed restrictions upon me that were founded on a religious belief — not my own — that hurts my ability to be a productive public servant.

Sarah Levin is a public defender in Western Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

GOP Morally Bankrupt

The GOP is fated by its own history to either tolerate or support the worst in America's character.

From Isolationism and America First, to McCarthy and Strom Thurmond, to saber rattling and voter suppression, to its tolerance, if not support, of the current WH occupant, the GOP is a denizen of the slough.

The GOP has no moral substance whatsoever, so it clings to the superficialities of morality, religion, capitalism and patriotism, but its decayed moral fiber can neither lead the nation nor posit a vision for the Free World.

The GOP has a long and sordid history, with only the rarest occurrence of real leaders, like Senator Arthur Vandenberg whose bipartisanship crafted the Marshall Plan, the United Nations and NATO. When others would have divided the nation, Vandenberg built bridges and crafted compromise.


"This too shall pass" said the plaque on Vandenberg's desk, and so it shall; but I can only hope for limited damage in our current situation, and that women and men of vision, moral clarity, with the courage of justice, will emerge to lead our nation aright.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Prohibition Zeal ...

The misplaced zeal of prohibition.

Yes, booze was killing millions.
Caught in the hell of their factories.
In the slime of the slums.
Without hope and without light.

Booze becomes, then, or now, some relief.
Who can blame anyone wanting a little R & R?

So, the pious and the well-meaning.
Smashed the barrels and passed the 24th Amendment.

And we all know how that worked.
A boon to the crooked, it was.
While the rich still had their booze and speak-easies.

I guess the nation needed to try it out.

But what a dismal failure it was.
Because the real issues were poverty.
Child labor.
The cruelty of the rich.
The wantonness of Wall Street.
Desperation for millions caught in the cogs of "progress."

This whole anti-abortion thing strikes me as pious palaver.
Misplaced energy and misguided thinking.
The issue isn't abortion.
It's a thousand other things that weaken families.
Victimizes women and young girls.
The macho men who can't keep their pants zipped.
And the pathetic preachers who label it all, "God's will."

Piety of this sort isn't piety at all.
It's just ignorance, fear and misogyny.
The ancient anxiety of men.
To keep women penned and pregnant.

I don't know.
Looks like we're headed in all the wrong directions.
With a brute in the WH.
And sex-fixated conservatives, hands in the pockets.

I hope it doesn't endure.
It won't.
This kind of stuff always falters and fails.
But not without doing its horrible work.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

It's Not a Pretty Picture

We have to stop judging war by the one "good one" - WW2.

For most of our wars, our dead and maimed soldiers have suffered and died to promote the private interests of wealth and expansion (Mexico 1848; Philippines 1899-1902) to keep the natural resources flowing into our nation, to manufacture cheap goods to sell to them back to the nations we've defeated, fundamentally deindustrializing those nations and forcing them into dependence. 

For what purpose?
Dear Readers, it's not a pretty picture ... and to be blunt, to be frank, our national cemeteries, beautiful as they are, filled with the remains of the young and lovingly tended, are mostly the province of American industry - steel, coal, oil, and agriculture, and our sense of entitlement, that we can have what we want, and what we want, we'll get.

Remember, too, that WW2 was fought by the citizen-soldier, and when it was over, they returned to civilian life, to carry on and build this nation.

They were not the neo-con "warriors" we've created ... an army of poor hoping for a chance, repeatedly deployed to hell again and again, led by a strange and bizarre Southern Elite Warrior Class, who upon leaving the armed forces often enter law enforcement to carry on their colonializing effort.

Am I being unduly harsh?

Perhaps.

But better to be harsh in quest of the real story, the truth that liberates, rather than maudlin myths, myths created by Big Biz and power-drunk politicians and evangelical preachers of American First.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

I Pay, You Pay, We all Pay for Trump's Madness

I pay more for Chinese goods.
The money derived thereof:
Goes to American Farmers.
Socialism in a pitiful capitalist system.
Where the people are robbed.
And the rich get richer.
Trump is a jerk.
Has fun playing Big Boy.
Messes everyone up.
And I pay.
And you pay, too.
As the money is transferred.
To those ...
Many of whom voted for the Little Piss Pants.
The Child in the WH.
This is how money behaves.
Money without reason.
Without values.
Money, the supreme everything.
Bottom line is the top of the mountain.
For crooks and bums and the privileged.
Who believe that America was created for their benefit.
And that America out to be darn glad.
For their big homes and expensive jets.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

For This I Hope

Our nation has seen bad times before, and we've made it through or, or have we?

How many bad times can a nation endure?
How much idiocy and greed, lust and lies?

Does it all add up to something finally terminal?
Is our democracy truly at risk?

If history means anything, we have to say Yes!
Wouldn't be the first nation to commit suicide.

Yet, I have hope.
There are plenty of good people around.

The 36%, of course, are pretty much a lost cause.
And maybe most of the 1%.

But I keep believing that America is more sane than not.
That we have a basic sense of right and justice.

That the current administration is more a fluke than a fact.
That it'll pass.

But damage has been done.
Real damage to the soul of the nation.

Can we recover?
Sure, we will.

But'll we'll have scars aplenty.
And we'll walk with a limp.

And maybe have a greater sense of humility.
That we're not the greatest on the this earth.

We're just another nation.
Tempted by self-seeking.

With a populace given to fanaticism.
Flag waving and racism.

We'll make it.
But not without a wound to our soul.

Maybe that's ok.
Ok to be wounded.

Wounded people often have a greater compassion.
A slowness to judge.

We'll survive.
But with a greater sense of reality.

For that I hope.
Yes, for that I hope.

Monday, February 25, 2019

To Avert Disaster

Climate change and its dangers ...

Scientists are warning us, raising a cry that we're reaching some kind of a tipping point, a point of no return, or something like that.

Perhaps their warnings are overstated; but to pay them no heed is just plain foolhardy.

GOP leaders, convinced in their shallow world that science is hokum and history is bunk, because they're drunk on power and cannot conceive of a world beyond their mighty control!

Buttressed by the idiocy of the evangelicals, claiming that gawd would never allow such a thing, because human beings are on top of the heap, commissioned by gawd to dominate the world, to wrest from it all that we can for our pleasure.

Fill the air with dirt, the water with poison, the soil with chemicals, and kill the big animals for the pleasure of mounting a head or two, or three, or hundreds and thousands on the walls of their luxury. Don't worry, gawd will clean it all up for us ... or at the least, rapture off to happy-land those who believe.

Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, were all warned by their more seasoned generals, but full steam ahead into disaster was their way, because power deludes those who have it.

No matter what, the earth will survive our foolish and arrogant behavior, but how much better it would be for us to think our way through the times, to rely upon reason and science, to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, rather than blunder our way into disaster.

The scientists warning us are not a bunch of panicked Chicken Littles, but women and men of wisdom who are likely and mostly right.

Biblically speaking, there is nothing in the text to warrant undo confidence in God's protective providence. The storm is coming said the prophets, and it came with God's own fury for a people who deafened themselves to the prophet's cry and hardened their hearts against the poor (these two dynamics seem to run hand-in-hand).

I hope, I pray, that our next group of leaders will have a greater sense of reason, a deeper respect for science, and a heart for the poor.

To avert disaster: to remember the polar bear and to care for the children who weep at night