The burdens of pregnancy and the barbarism of abortion bans

The burdens of pregnancy and the barbarism of abortion bans

Annie Lowrey has a compelling personal history that underscores the deep inhumanity of using the violence of the state to force women to carry pregnancy to term:

I looked at the clock glowing on the nightstand in my bedroom and it read 1:23, one-two-three, a neat set of numbers. I tossed and turned and writhed and looked again, and it read 1:17. Had I misread the clock? Maybe I was dreaming about the time. Maybe I was just confused.

I slept, I woke up, I “slept,” I “woke up.” I hobbled into the bathroom, feeling shooting pain each time I moved my left side. The veins in the stone on the vanity writhed and breathed. Everything smelled metallic. I was hallucinating. I itched, and so I scratched, clawing at the damp back of my knees, my soft belly, my ribs. I broke open the scabs on my legs, watching my blood bead on my irritated skin. Back in the bedroom, a strange pair of eyes, slate-blue with yellow sclera, stared at me in the mirror. I had given birth to my second child a week before, and nothing made sense.

The hallucinations that arrived post-delivery were far from my worst symptoms. I experienced debilitating nerve pain during the second pregnancy—like having a tattoo gun alight on my skin, over and over. I itched unceasingly and uncontrollably during both: For 136 days the first time and 167 days the second, I was itchy every single moment of every single day. The sensation ranged between the tight skin of a sunburn and the agony of poison ivy. The itching intensified after sundown, causing sleeplessness and exhaustion. I was itchy in my dreams. I sometimes wonder whether my son, sharing my body, might have been itchy too.

For me, pregnancy was “obscene,” in the phrasing of one of my doctors. And mysterious. Over the course of my two pregnancies, more than 40 physicians and midwives, by my count, failed to explain why my blood work kept coming back with so many anomalies, why so many debilitating complications kept piling up in an otherwise healthy woman.

Though my experience was unusual, I did have something in common with countless other pregnant people: Despite recent medical advances, bearing a child remains startlingly dangerous, a fact that America’s lawmakers on the bench have chosen to ignore. One in five pregnant people experiences a significant complication. And one in 4,000 dies during pregnancy, in childbirth, or shortly after delivering, including one in 1,800 Black mothers. Yet Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization takes the interests of the “unborn human being” into account while dismissing those of the person forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

But at least the Republicans who favor banning abortion will also be working overtime to ensure that non-affluent women who have medical complications during and/or after pregnancies will have as little access to healthcare as possible.

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