Living With Fear In Texas

[Content Note: Infertility, Reproductive Coercion, Disability, Rape]

I don't use birth control.

I don't use birth control because I'm in a relationship with a man, and we would like to become pregnant. Two years ago, we spent a lot of time and money and tears trying to become pregnant through IVF -- a step we thought was necessary due to low sperm count after a vasectomy and vasectomy reversal -- but we didn't succeed. We didn't succeed because all the embryos we created ended up failing to thrive due to genetic abnormalities; the doctors decided that my husband and I were genetically incompatible to create healthy babies. And we decided that maybe this was for the best, since no one has ever been confident that my disabled body could handle a full-term pregnancy without serious risks to my health and possibly even my life.

But we still hope. And so we don't use birth control, because there's always that chance, that very slight possibility for a miracle, that somehow one sperm might make it out and that one sperm might meet an egg and they might make a healthy baby against all the odds.

We don't really believe it will ever happen. But it's easier to hope than to use birth control (much of which conflicts with my disability medication) or to permanently sterilize one or both of us and admit for certain that a child will never happen to us. Hope is easier for us than certainty.

As of this morning, the Texas legislature has effectively banned abortion past the 20th week of pregnancy, with no exception for rape and no known exception that I can find for the health or life of the pregnant person. The bill has moved on to the Texas senate, where Republican senators are trying to use the absence of a Democratic senator -- a senator who is attending her father's funeral today -- to attempt to change the rules and force the bill's passage. If the bill passes the senate, it will move to the governor's desk to sign; Gov. Rick Perry will almost certainly be happy to do so.

As of this morning, I have to decide whether or not to give up my hope for conceiving a wanted child.

If I am raped, I don't know that I will have access to emergency contraception. (The proposed bill attempts to limit the usage of "abortion-inducing drug[s]", which in itself is an unclear statement, considering the anti-choice position on hormonal birth control.) Even if I had access to the pill after my hypothetical rape, would I take it or would I want to wait and see if any pregnancy that developed was the product of my husband or of my rapist? I haven't found good information on when it's possible to determine the paternity of a fetus; I can't believe that I'm even being forced to consider this right now as a preemptive act of self-protection against my state.

If I were pregnant with my husband's child, would we be able to determine before the 20th week cutoff whether the fetus had dangerous genetic abnormalities (as our embryos did) or whether the pregnancy would pose a serious risk to my health and my life? It's very possible that we wouldn't be able to tell in time -- but even if we could, would that information do us any good when this bill also intends to shut down 37 of the remaining 42 clinics in the state? Would I have to drive to Oklahoma to get my abortion? Fly to New York? Would my husband be legally culpable for transporting me across state lines to get my abortion? Would I need to go alone? Which state can I flee to, if my life is in danger from a wanted pregnancy?

I don't use birth control because I would dearly like a baby. But I don't want one so badly that I want to die. Or to be disabled for life even worse than I already am. Or to bear one that has no chance at life, and is doomed only to a short, painful death. Or to bear a potential rapist's child just because he didn't wear a condom and I found out too late that the pregnancy wasn't a result of my and my husband's attempts at conception.

Now today, thanks to the Republicans in the Texas legislature and senate, I have to make a decision. I have to decide whether the hope I've been clinging to is worth more than the fear they've imposed on me. And if I decide that I can't live with the fear, then I have to figure out how to become sterilized, how to convince doctors to let me do so despite my relatively young age, how to get my insurance to cover the procedure, how to pursue sterilization in ways that don't conflict with my current disability or my medications.

And I have to give up my hope.

I love Texas with all my heart. It's my home. It's where I wanted to raise my child. But today, Texas doesn't love me back. Texas, or rather the people who run it, are content with knowing that I (and people like me) must live with fear in Texas.

Twitter tags for following this issue: #SB5, #HB60, #TXlege.
Recommended background reading: A Sunday at the Capitol by Dan Solomon

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