The political world is acting stunned that Congresswoman and potential Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is discussing a “devastating miscarriage” and how that event made her even more against abortion. “We made a commitment that no matter how many children were brought into our life, we would receive them because we are committed to life,” she told an audience yesterday.
Of course, it’s hard to imagine a woman who was sidewalk counseling outside of abortion clinics long before she ever even became a Republican could say she wasn’t “committed to life” before the miscarriage. But her story reminds me of one I run into a lot as both a writer on reproductive health and a woman who has dealt with fertility issues and my own miscarriage.
I’ve written extensively in the past about my own personal struggles trying to conceive a family. Inevitably, I would receive comments from people — mostly women, and mostly women against abortion, who ask me how I could possibly be pro-choice, and support a women’s right to have an abortion, when I have experienced first hand what it is like to lose a baby.
I have experienced it, and I know it for the emotionally crippling experience it can be. To lose a wanted pregnancy is something that I fervently wish no family ever had to go through. But the experience also, unlike Bachmann’s experience, made me more adamant in my support for a woman’s right to decide when she wants to carry a baby to term.
When I went in for my appointment at the end of the first trimester, I had absolutely no reason to think anything was wrong. Although it had taken a long time to get pregnant, I already had one child, and I had no indications that there could be anything amiss in my second pregnancy. I was sick, tired, gaining weight. It was only when they went to find a heartbeat, then went to get an ultrasound, that we discovered the baby had stopped growing weeks earlier, and my body simply hadn’t responded to it yet.
I believe any woman who has experienced a missed miscarriage can understand the panic that fills you, knowing that there is something inside of you that you have no ability to remove or end yourself. That for as long as it takes to arrange appointments, see doctors, schedule surgery, it is sitting inside you, a part of you, but really not.
It didn’t take long into setting up my D&C for me to realize that panic, that feeling of being trapped and needing help and knowing that your life is going in a totally different direction than you thought just a few days earlier, wasn’t much different than how a woman with an unwanted pregnancy felt from the moment she saw her first positive test.
One in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. One in three women have had an abortion. It’s pretty obvious that although some women no doubt are changed from their experience of a loss of a wanted baby, miscarriage does not in general change women’s views on a right to choose.
Bachmann’s mention of her miscarriage is courageous in the fact that women simply do not speak out loud about their losses. But as an event that allegedly “committed” her to protecting life, Bachmann still speaks for few women other than herself.