No Big Deal ?

Because LINK> Rebecca Solnit says it so well in her essay in The Guardian . . .

Being a parent is expensive. Being a criminal is also expensive, whether you lose economic opportunities to avoid apprehension or spend money on your defense if apprehended or go to prison and lose everything and, marked as a felon, emerge unemployable. Abortion is an economic issue, because when it’s not legal, those are the two remaining options, leaving out being dead, which you could argue is either very expensive or absolutely beyond the realms of money and price. And being dead is also on the table because women have all too often died from lack of access to reproductive healthcare, including abortions (to say nothing of being unable to leave an abuser, to whom pregnancy and children can bind you more tightly). They are facing more of that now.

Having no options but to be dead, criminal or a parent is not a sane or moral argument for parenthood, and it’s also pretty different than having certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Also, now that abortion is unavailable under almost all circumstances in Texas and other states, it’s an economic justice issue in that those with the financial capacity to take time off, travel in search of care and pay for it out of pocket are not affected the way those who cannot do so are. And those who can afford to get an abortion under these circumstances are also those who can afford to defend themselves against possible criminal charges.

All of which is to say, abortion is an economic issue and a labor issue, as well as a human rights and healthcare issue, as the AFL-CIO and other labor unions have recognized. So it’s been confounding to see some supposedly progressive men say that people should talk about economics instead of abortion, as if the loss of reproductive rights isn’t a huge economic blow to anyone facing the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. The last days before the midterm elections should include robust Democratic conversations about defending rights and pursuing economic justice, with access to abortion central to both.

Access to birth control and abortion laid the groundwork for US women to begin to claim financial, professional and educational equality – a goal still far from realized, overall, but reproductive rights flattened the mountains and filled in the chasms a little. Taking that away pushes women back into the grim era when an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy could upend a life, stop an education, stymie a career, force unwanted dependency on the person who caused that pregnancy – an era when self-determination was an aspiration, not a given.

The Dobbs decision striking down Roe v Wade on 24 June was cavalier about all this. The majority opinion pretends that bearing a child no longer has significant social and economic impact. It cites among its justifications that “attitudes about the pregnancy of unmarried women have changed drastically; that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy; that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases; that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance; that states have increasingly adopted “safe haven” laws, which generally allow women to drop off babies anonymously; and that a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home”. In other words, there is no reason not to have an unplanned or unwanted child; doing so is no big deal.

All of which are callous lies. The right not to bear children isn’t just about respectability for the unmarried, and to frame it that way while ignoring the profound and lasting emotional, psychological and physical as well as financial impact of carrying a pregnancy for nine months and giving birth is outrageous. Discrimination against people who may get pregnant or are pregnant continues despite those laws; many pregnant people continue to lack access to healthcare; and the fact that a baby can be handed over is no justification for being forced to bear it. Furthermore, as another branch of the US government that the supreme court could have consulted reports: “The number of children waiting to be adopted also fell in fiscal year 2020 to 117,000”; the number in foster care was over 400,000.

One of the striking things about the conversation in defense of abortion rights in recent months is the testimony by those who’ve undergone pregnancy, miscarriage and childbirth about how physically grueling and even life-threatening they can be. Pregnancy can incapacitate women for months, which is obviously economically devastating to a poor person working in the gig economy or, say, in a nail salon or a fast-food restaurant. It can be an overwhelming experience, interfering particularly in the ability to perform physical labor: the judge may be able to toil on when the janitor cannot. And a lot of people are making a living through work that is physically demanding.

Another striking new note has been the insistence that we need to stop defining abortion as a stand-alone right and look at the criminalization of pregnancy and motherhood, especially for poor and nonwhite women. “More than 50 women have been prosecuted for child neglect or manslaughter in the United States since 1999 because they tested positive for drug use after a miscarriage or stillbirth,” reported the Marshall Project, while noting that miscarriages are common under all circumstances. “Sentences have ranged from probation to 20 years in prison. Women prosecuted after pregnancy loss are often those least able to defend themselves, the investigation found. They typically work low-paying jobs, are often victims of domestic abuse, have little access to healthcare or drug treatment and rely on court-appointed lawyers who advise them that pleading guilty is their best option.” Too, some women die from pregnancy and childbirth, and thanks to unequal medical care, Black women have the highest incidence of such deaths. Pregnancy and childbirth can also cause permanent physical changes, including lasting pain and disability.

The laws making the most intimate conditions of a body and life subject to legal intrusion are reportedly already preventing pregnant people from seeking healthcare and spreading well-founded fear. Making the administration of an abortion a crime is frightening medical caregivers and interfering with their ability to provide care. Some of the proposed abortion bans would include life-saving abortions, and we have already seen cases in which medical care was withheld until a woman’s life was actively in danger. Women are already being denied prescriptions when those drugs can be used in abortions, another way that taking away abortion rights is turning into a broader loss of rights.

The financial and professional impact of parenting in heterosexual relationships still mostly falls on women. The majority of women who have abortions are already mothers raising kids; we are in a childcare crisis that has, along with the long months schools were shut during the pandemic, crushed a lot of women’s working lives and financial independence.

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted in late September, “When the powerful force people to give birth against their will, they trap millions in cycles of economic setback and desperation. Especially in a country without guaranteed healthcare. And desperate workers are easier to exploit.” The supreme court majority pretended it was undermining access to reproductive rights because they have no significant impact, but of course the court’s agenda was the opposite: to impose the conditions that make women subordinate in rights and economic status.

It’s Never Too Late

Martha Einerson and Jonathan Tallert

Just a happy reunion story to give all of those adoptees and their first mothers hope by way of LINK> The Guardian – A new start after 60: I became a mother at 62. I am only going to share some highlights. The full story is at the link.

It sort of reminded me of how I connected with my nephew – a surprise email sent to our business account, that my husband forwarded to me. After Martha retired, a former colleague forwarded an email to her saying, “This seems kind of important,” adding a smiley face. I am a “sign” kind of person and so I really liked reading this part – she looked out of the window, “and there was this amazing double rainbow in the east. I thought: that’s a sign. I wrote a short note: ‘Hello, oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you since you were teeny tiny.’” At 62, Einerson had “become a mother”.

It was 1977 and in her first year at the University of Dallas. Yet by the time she knew she was pregnant, her relationship with Tallert’s birth father was ending. So, with her family’s support, she decided to give her child up for adoption. Later, as a professor of communication studies, who specialized in interpersonal communication and personal relationships, she often shared the story of her pregnancy. When she did the question was Don’t you want to find him ? And she would say: “You know, I don’t.” She goes on to elaborate that “My mother always told me: ‘You were his mother for nine months …’ but when you make a big decision, affirm it and reaffirm it as often as you need. And I did. It worked.”

She goes on to admit that every few years, she would wonder if her son was OK and if he was still alive. Even though she would tell people she wasn’t looking for him, she did register with adoption agencies, so he could track her down. Yet, she felt she had made a commitment to give him to another family. My adoptee dad was kind of like that too. He believed once you were adopted that adoptive family was your ONLY family. He never expressed to me any desire to find out anything about his adoption. Sadly, his half-sister was living only 90 miles away from him when he died and could have told him so much about his original mother.

Like many mothers who surrender their first born (my original maternal grandmother was one of those), she had no more children; though she and her husband have “a fantastic relationship … We were unable to have children of our own so we both dove into our careers.”

Happily, like many adoptees who achieve a reunion with their original mother, they quickly clicked with one another and discovered they naturally had behaviors in common (that is the genetic nature part of any human being’s personality). Sort of like how my grown daughter has called me by my first name since she was a toddler (though also “mom”), Tallert calls her Martha. “But once in a while, in a close moment, he’ll call me Mom,” she says. “And it still feels as good as it did the first time.” I too feel good when one of my children calls me “mom” or when one of my grandchildren calls me “grandma.” I guess it’s natural.

Reproductive Justice

Yesterday, this blog was about the rights of fathers, today it is about the Reproductive Justice Movement. Reproductive justice includes the right to abort a pregnancy but also the right to raise a child in a safe and supportive community.

Why Reproductive Justice ? The experiences of Black, brown and Indigenous women who have been sterilized, abused, or punished for bearing children. Welfare laws based on misleading impressions of so-called welfare queens – Black women who allegedly had babies to collect welfare checks but wasted the money. These stereotypes have led to welfare policies that discourage welfare recipients from having more children by reducing their benefits.

The white-dominated reproductive rights movement’s “choice” framework privileges the most socially advantaged people in society. Those who have the ability to make choices. It doesn’t take into account social structures, power arrangements of race, class, gender, heterosexism, immigration status, religion – all of which shape one’s ability to have reproductive autonomy.

High Black maternal mortality is a matter of reproductive justice. States that have passed or will soon pass abortion bans have the worst healthcare systems, the highest maternal mortality, especially Black maternal mortality, and the highest infant mortality. As a result of [the supreme court decision] Dobbs, we’ll see increases in maternal mortality – deaths of pregnant people who intended to carry to term – because their health will be compromised.

It includes ending police violence, abolishing prisons, and all the inhumane carceral approaches to meeting human needs that have a profound impact on one’s reproductive life. Prisons are a major impediment in the United States to reproductive freedom. People who have had their children taken away by a discriminatory child welfare system that targets Black neighborhoods for family separation do not have reproductive freedom. To me, reproductive justice is inextricably linked to the fight against the prison industrial complex and the family policing system.

The reproductive justice framework is more effective than the reproductive choice approach. the movement for reproductive justice must be aligned with movements for housing, abolishing the prison industrial complex, environmental justice, and economic justice, because all of those movements are essential to supporting freedom, including reproductive freedom.

Movements seeking to limit or abolish the power of the criminal legal system and the prison industrial complex are relevant to opposing Dobbs’ assault on reproductive freedom. People are already being arrested and imprisoned for stillbirths and miscarriages; that standard will be applied to abortions as well. Recognizing the interconnected nature of these challenges is essential.

Today’s blog leans heavily on an interview in LINK> The Guardian of Dorothy Roberts. She is an internationally renowned scholar of race, gender, and the law at the University of Pennsylvania, who has dedicated her career to exposing attacks on Black women’s reproductive rights dating back to slavery and persisting to the present. 

You can learn more about Reproductive Justice at this LINK> SisterSong. Reproductive Justice combines reproductive rights and social justice.

All In One

Mom via adoption, IVF and surrogacy

Infertility is a difficult path for any woman. For many of us the expectation is that we will have children at some point in our life. The Atluri family now has 7 children but it took every trick in the assisted reproduction toolkit to get them to this outcome. Josephine is one of the 1 in 8 women requiring fertility assistance, and also one of the 1 in 4 women who have experienced a miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

My blog today comes thanks to an article in LINK> The Huffington Post by Josephine Atluri. The family also had decisions to make regarding their frozen embryos, a situation in light of the uncertainties brought about by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade and the rush to close and lock doors in many Republican controlled states. Not that this was a factor in the Atluri family’s calculations but it has become a factor for many couples who have used IVF now.

The first child added to this family came by way of adoption. During the 3 years they attempted to create their family with assisted reproduction through IVF, she experienced chemical pregnancies, miscarriages and flat-out failed cycles. After losing a twin pregnancy at 17 weeks, she realized that she could no longer handle the physical, mental and emotional toll of another IVF cycle. Thus, half a year after the loss of their twins, they pivoted in their approach to parenthood and pursued an international adoption. They adopted a 10-month-old boy who became the physical manifestation of their hopes to have a family.

After a year of joyful parenthood, their sense of optimism had renewed enough to try one more IVF cycle at a new fertility center in Denver. Thankfully, they succeeded, becoming pregnant with twins again and this time the pregnancy went to term. They became the parents of healthy boy and girl twins.

The happy ending did not erase the pain experienced from infertility, miscarriage or pregnancy loss for Josephine. This eventually manifested in a fight to control her body as untreated mental health issues snowballed into bulimia. During the healing process, she discovered that she felt the need to “control” her body through her eating disorder partly because it was uncooperative reproductively. 

Every year after the birth of their twins, they received a letter from the storage facility that safeguarded the many embryos from their last IVF procedure. For four years they decided to keep them frozen. On the fifth year, her husband said, “I think it’s time we give these embryos a chance.” After a drawn-out moment, she expressed another truth she had confronted during her healing journey. “I can’t. I just can’t do it again. I’m so sorry.”

It was at this point they decided to pursue surrogacy. She says, “At every step of the process, an unthinkable level of trust, vulnerability, collaboration and communication was required.” Without complications, their surrogate gave birth to their twin boys. Even so, they continued to receive annual reminders regarding their remaining frozen embryos, They tried surrogacy again and two decades after their first IVF cycle, they are now the proud parents of seven children: a 15-year-old son, 13-year-old boy/girl twins, 6-year-old twin boys and 1-year-old twin girls.

She thinks of herself as a warrior in a 17 year long war against infertility. Thanks to the support of online community, she was able to find strength in her story and voice. She speaks up about women’s physical and mental health issues in an effort to destigmatize and normalize these important conversations. She has become a fertility, pregnancy and parenting mindfulness coach.

It’s NOT A Partisan Issue

There was a book published in 2004 by Thomas Frank – What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. It was in Kansas in 2009 that Dr George Tiller, who performed abortions, was murdered by anti-abortion activists. Yesterday in a hopeful, surprising outcome – Kansas voted to continue to protect abortion in the state constitution. It was the first state to put this issue to the people since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the federal protection of abortion rights for women. You and I have to do our job out there at the polls to save this country from itself.

Kansas is a deeply conservative and usually reliably Republican state. President Joe Biden said, “This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own healthcare decisions.” Kansas state senator Dinah Sikes, who is a Democrat, said “It’s breathtaking that women’s voices were heard and we care about women’s health,” The $3 million dollars spent by the Catholic church trying to eradicate abortion rights in Kansas failed.

The referendum was instigated by the Kansas Republican legislature. Their effort was criticized for being misleading, fraught with misinformation and voter suppression tactics. They scheduled this vote in August, when voter turnout is historically low, particularly among independents and Democrats. It was a tense and bitterly fought campaign.

The campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, Rachel Sweet, noted “We knocked tens of thousands of doors and had hundreds of thousands of phone calls … We countered millions of dollars in misinformation. We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion in our state.” The key to this was driving voter turnout to not seeing abortion as a partisan issue in Kansas. Everyone – from Republicans, to unaffiliated voters, to hardcore libertarians – came out to say: “No, we don’t want the government involved in what we do with our bodies”.

Information for this blog came from an article in LINK> The Guardian. Abortion and Adoption are often linked, although one really does not relate to the other, still some people often try to make that association. Many adoption activists trying to reduce the prevalence of adoption in the US are pro-Choice. Many people who managed to get born are thankful that they were not aborted. Surprisingly, due to the trauma involved in all adoptions (whether acknowledged or not), many adoptees will say they wish they had been aborted.

An Alternative to Adoption

Even before I knew so much about adoption, when secondary infertility became an obstacle to my husband’s desire to be a father, my OB-GYN said, “there is another way.” Now that I know more about the trauma that adoption causes, than I knew at that time, I will always consider this the best way. Even before we knew about that, my husband and I rejected the idea of adopting children. I do feel that sperm donors are more worrisome because the history of that kind of donation may include many, many half siblings. I have a biological, genetically related, grown daughter and two grandchildren, so having been there and done made accepting the “other” way easier for me personally.

Distance prevents us from having a closer relationship with our donor but my children have met her on more than one occasion. They are aware of her and that she has children, two sons and a daughter, which she has raised. Occasionally, I show them pictures of her and those children, when she shares them at Facebook. She has always been interested in the boys, while being non-intrusive but totally open to any relationship they may want to create with her. They have a private method of contact with her, if they wish to use that, through 23 and Me.

The Guardian today has another family’s story. “They used her eggs to have a baby. Now they’re one big family.” by Ellie Houghtaling, with photographs by Bridget Bennett. The subtitle notes – “Anonymity is meant to protect donors, but taking another path can afford a different sort of security – and new ways to think about how to raise a kid.” We took a similar path, our donor was a stranger we “met” on the internet and had what is called a “known donation”. We have not had exactly the same style of parenting as in this article. We have always been open and transparent with our sons about how they were conceived because they were wanted and not some kind of accident.

It is rare for families to meet the stranger donating eggs to them. In the US, egg and sperm donation is usually a closed process. It is more common for a family to hear about the donor through an agency. With anonymous donation, the couple may receive only basic, non-identifying features about their potential donor – such as their university or their eye color – without ever learning their name or hearing their voice. Most donors go through some testing. In the case of egg donation, hormone injections are utilized over a period of time to procure whatever number of eggs the donor produces. With agency facilitated anonymous donation methods, the donor is never told whether their donation was successful, who the family is, or what any offspring that result look like.

Before our first procedure (she donated again for our second son), we spent time with our donor and her youngest son. We were respectful of what she was doing for us. Both times, we provided her with whatever comforts she suggested would be helpful after her eggs were retrieved and have stayed in contact with her over the years. Our sons are genetically the same – the sperm and egg sources were the same for both. I see our donor and her children reflected in the appearance of our sons. It makes me happy – which might seem strange to some people – but I think it is a reflection of my fondness and appreciation for her. As far as being their mother – the donor has shown a total understanding of the differences in her and my roles. My sons treat me 100% as their mother, which seems natural and understandable regardless.

Becoming a family thanks to that “other way” has proven to be a good choice for my own family. Our sons seem to understand they would not even exist under any other circumstance.

Conveying Personhood to Embryos

I am good with the definition above. With the overturning of Roe v Wade, couples who have utilized assisted reproduction to produce embryos now in cryogenic storage are concerned. Therefore, people hoping to conceive with in vitro fertilization are now considering moving their stored embryos to states where abortion is protected.

A handful of states want to use an abortion regulation to define life as beginning at fertilization. This is language that is commonly present in several state abortion bans. Some have gone into effect and others will soon, including in Utah, Texas and Louisiana. Some states want to go further – giving embryos constitutional rights through what are called “personhood” bills, even though most will never become babies. Personhood laws have been proposed but have not yet passed in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Nebraska.

IVF is the other side of the reproductive choice coin. Abortion is a woman’s right to choose ‘no.’ IVF is their right to choose ‘yes.’ Laws that define life as beginning at conception could lead to limitations around how many eggs are fertilized in each IVF cycle and whether the resulting embryos, most of which are often not genetically viable, can be disposed of. It’s standard to retrieve a dozen eggs or more, then fertilize and test them to ensure the one that is implanted in the uterus has the best chance of leading to a healthy pregnancy. If those embryos are considered people from the moment they’re fertilized, disposal could be a crime and doctors could be prosecuted. That would make IVF less successful, more costly and more inaccessible.

Couples are worried that their embryos could be held hostage by abortion legislation and that they would then be unable to move them out of state. They are worried their state will force them to have another child even though they feel their family is complete. They are worried about getting pregnant at all and miscarrying – will they be able to receive the care they need?

The bottom line is this – losing choice means losing the autonomy to dictate one’s own future. 

Much of the content for today’s blog came by way of this article – “IVF may be in jeopardy in states where embryos are granted personhood” by Chabeli Carranza and Jennifer Gerson in The Guardian.

It’s Complicated

I didn’t hate motherhood but circumstances robbed me of it with my first child. She ended up being raised by her dad and a step-mother, after I left her temporarily in the care of her paternal grandmother. This morning I was reading an edited extract from Undo Motherhood by Diana Karklin. Stories from women all over the planet about how motherhood was not a welcomed event in their lives.

At the time I left my daughter, it didn’t feel like it was because I didn’t love being her mother, I always did love that but was I committed to it ? Reading these stories today, I wonder at my lack of maturity and sense of responsibility at the time. I think I always expected to do something like my own mother did – get married and immediately have children, while going to work everyday to contribute to the family income. I was also into “having a good time” and all that meant as someone in their early 20s – whether in a marriage or not.

Even so, it’s strange that I married. During my senior year in high school, that had not been my plan. I was going to share an apartment with my best friend. The first time I went out with the man who I would marry and have a child with, I told my mom when I came back from that date that it was never going to work out. Then, he showed me a ring and asked me to marry him and so, I did.

I still think marriage isn’t a good bargain for a woman, even though I then married a second time and had two sons with the man who is my husband today. If anything happens that takes him from me and leaves me yet living, I cannot imagine marrying again. We have now been married a long time and so, this time it worked out but with a bump or two along the way – yet the marriage has been able to endure.

Reading the article in The Guardian today – “The women who wish they weren’t mothers: ‘An unwanted pregnancy lasts a lifetime’ “ – has given me pause in reflecting on my own life. Also today, in the Science of Mind magazine which shares the philosophy of a man named Ernest Holmes who created a practice based upon the philosophies of the world and developments in science, I was also given more pause to reflect on romantic love.

The author, Rev Dr Jim Lockard, reflected on what it means to be human and to have a spiritual nature. Our biological selves seek to procreate, as does all life. Our emotional selves seek connection and to give and receive love with a special other to experience a deep feeling of fulfillment. Our intellectual selves seek to find a partner to share our human experiences and to create a family structure. Our spiritual selves seek to link to another to experience the joining of spiritual identities in relationship.

Clearly on many levels, having children fulfills a lot of those aspects and qualities of life, as much or sometimes more than a romantic partner can. Just as The Guardian piece made clear – it is often our cultures that have set rules and expectations about our adult lives. Even as the rigidity of narrow gender definitions have been rapidly changing, with the overturn of Roe v Wade, many women feel they are being pushed back into another time that they thought was in the past. They may be forced into giving birth, due to whatever reason and circumstance, even though they aren’t craving to fulfill the duties of motherhood. Children do best when they are intended and wanted. When they are not – wounding and trauma are the result. Just as an unwanted pregnancy lasts a lifetime, regardless of how long that initial romantic relationship endures, or even how that one night stand or rape has become imprinted on a woman’s soul, what happens to that child lasts a lifetime as well.

The nature of falling in love is a mixture of biological urges, emotional longings, rational explanations and spiritual connections. To fall in love is to exist in instability and the projection of our unconscious expectations onto another person. Our sense of rational choice is diminished. Many women wake up one day to realize that they fell in love with someone their ego was imagining and not a reality the other person was able to actually be – long term. A man is often free to walk away, leaving a woman forced to carry the burden of their children for at least 2 decades – truly for both the mother’s and the children’s lifetimes. Whether a father does or not is never guaranteed.

So Many Siblings

There is a difference between sperm and egg donations which are utilized in assisted reproduction to enable a couple to become parents. A man donating sperm can father a lot of genetically related children – which is now becoming apparent to many of the maturing individuals who owe their lives to that process. It is a lot more complicated and involved for the woman who donates her eggs. Generally, she is never going to be involved in the number of offspring that a man donating sperms can theoretically create.

Donor conceived persons do have some concerns in common with adoptees as it relates to their medical family history and cultural genetics and the unknowns that such conceptions entail. Therefore, my blog today is inspired by a story in The Guardian about Chrysta Bilton. Her father was a prolific sperm donor. In her 20s, she discovered that she had dozens, and most likely hundreds, of biological siblings growing up all over the US. That the man she knew only as her dad, the one who struggled with homelessness and drug addiction, was secretly one of the most prolific sperm donors at the California Cryobank.

Chrysta’s story is complex, worth the time to read it, if it interests you. I was a young adult in the 80s and settled down into the married life that is mine late in that decade but I have some sense of what it was like. My life does not resemble Chrysta’s in the least really but there were the unconventional choices that I made as well – to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother (I was already divorced from her dad) while I tried out driving an 18-wheel truck, which I found I could do. That led to taking off to live without much of a safety net in the marijuana growing region of Humboldt county. We had some bags of dried beans and the guys (I was the only woman and did the cooking and cleaning up afterwards) shot critters for us to eat. We also got some Salmon from the local indigenous people. Those were my wild days.

I do have some understanding of the issues related to donor conception. With the advent of inexpensive DHA testing, something that seemed like it could be kept private within the closest family, is not something that can or should be kept private today. I’m grateful my husband and I have always been open, honest and transparent about our own choices regarding how we became the parents of our two sons.

Chrysta ends her story with this contemplation – What is family? What does it mean to be in someone’s family? What responsibilities do you have to those people? Meeting her 35 new siblings, she realized “something shared between all of us is that we all had a mother who desperately wanted us to exist.” That is a truth, children born by assisted reproduction are not accidents. They were intended. I believe that is an important factor.

In Britain today, donor children born since 2005 have the right to find out the identity of their biological parents when they reach 18. This “removal of anonymity” law came about after studies found that adopted and donor-conceived children benefited emotionally from knowing who their biological parents were, regardless of whether or not they had any contact with them.

As of late 2021, in the US, it is still technically possible to have anonymous donations. There is a Right to Know movement that is seeking to unseal closed adoption records but that has only been accomplished in about half of these 50 United States jurisdictions.

Chrysta’s book about her experiences is titled – A Normal Family. Her book is available in the US at all the usual booksellers.

At Least This

I was born in New Mexico, so I chose to highlight the blog with this image. With the potential of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade soon to kick off – 26 of these United States, just over half, will completely ban all abortions for any reason and the forced birthing of women who find themselves pregnant will be the result. Some states – Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Texas have all extended health benefits for low-income mothers in recent months, and Alabama and Georgia have both moved to implement such extensions. There is an important distinction to make here – all of these states listed here plan to impose severe abortion restrictions or bans.

New Mexico will NOT be banning abortion – they are expanding Medicaid coverage for the RIGHT reason and not as cover for their war on women’s equal rights. Abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy in New Mexico. There was a law in New Mexico that banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or if it was necessary to save a woman’s life. That law was put on NM’s books in 1969. In Feb 2021, Gov Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that struck that old law from the books. She said, “This is about women who deserve the right, particularly when there are untenable circumstances, to have a relationship with their provider and control over their own bodies and we know when that occurs, frankly, we are saving lives.”

Colorado took it even a step further than New Mexico in April 2022. Gov Jared Polis signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act into law. The legislation makes it a right for people to make reproductive health care decisions without government interference.

I have long argued that we do not support mothers and children, or families for that matter, seriously enough as a society. So this expansion of Medicaid benefits is certainly welcomed. However, the bans that will go into place if the Supreme Court rules as currently expected, will also result in a worsening of the current maternal mortality rate. That rate has risen overall in 2020. There were almost 24 deaths per 100,000 births, or 861 deaths total. This number reflects mothers who died during pregnancy, childbirth or the year after. The rate was 20 per 100,000 in 2019. Among Black women the rate has long been much worse. There were 55 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. That is almost triple the rate for white people.

“If they [Republican lawmakers] really cared about maternal mortality they’d reduce the causes of maternal mortality – and it goes way beyond Medicaid expansion,” according to Loretta Ross, an associate professor at Smith College in Georgia and a reproductive justice activist. 

The truth is that there have been changes to Medicaid, thanks to a provision of federal pandemic aid, which streamlined postpartum benefit changes. Missouri has long refused to expand Medicaid. The most dramatic effect of a post-partum extension would be felt in those Republican-led states, where lawmakers have long refused to expand the program to more low-income people.

In Texas, 25% of women of reproductive age lack health insurance, the highest rate in the nation. Texas is also among the 10 worst states for maternal mortality. Lawmakers in Texas recently expanded Medicaid to pregnant patients for six months after giving birth, instead of only the two they were given previously.

Back to my previous argument that we don’t support mothers, their children or the families enough – a single mother in Texas supporting two children cannot earn more than $2,760 a year and qualify for Medicaid – unless they are pregnant, in which case they can earn up to $45,600 a year and qualify. The previous exemption lasted only 60 days after birth – which it should be noted is also the federal minimum. After that, most become uninsured once again. so, the expansion to six months is welcome but still insufficient.

In Tennessee, the Republican governor, Bill Lee, directly connected the state’s postpartum Medicaid expansion and abortion. At a press conference in May, he spoke about Tennessee’s “trigger” ban, a law that will allow the state to immediately ban abortion, if the supreme court ends federal protections. He said, this is for “The lives of unborn children (and that) it’s very important that we protect their lives. It’s also important that we recognize that women in crisis need support and assistance through this process. For example, that’s why we’ve expanded our postpartum coverage for women in TennCare.”

It is all a brilliant smoke and mirrors strategy to pretend they care but I sincerely doubt they do. Want to bet that these women’s poverty related need for Medicaid will be used against them to take the children away and give them to wealthier people wanting to adopt ?

Statistics and details are thanks to The Guardian and KOB4 in Albuquerque NM.