(Trigger Warning: Rape, sexual assault, miscarriage, abortion, marital rape)
Last week the US House of Representatives passed The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7). It essentially broadens the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used in Dilation and Curettage (D&C) procedures. Because there are tax benefits associated with the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHCA), the sponsors of H.R. 7 successfully argued that, in essences, that is equivalent to using taxpayer funds to provide abortions. If the bill passes the Senate and if the President signs it into law, the 80% of healthcare policies that provide coverage for D&C procedures will be prohibited by law from covering those services. The employers who purchase insurance plans covering those procedures would lose their tax benefits and, for good measure, the District of Columbia (because Congress is D.C.’s state government) will be prohibited from using even private funds for D&C medical care.
Now, the idea that anti-choice taxpayers have to pay for a procedure that they consider murder and a sin against God is not in question and, presumably, will one day lead to questions about things like war and executions. However, putting all that aside, what happens when life twists in ways you can’t predict?
One night, while serving in the Navy, I received a call. There was a rape victim on her way to the hospital. I walked into the exam room to find a beautiful African American woman. She was the wife of a Sailor and the mother of his young child. He had raped her. It wasn’t the first time, but it was by far the worst. She knew what calling the police meant. She was at a crossroads. Proceed with prosecution or go home and beg him to forgive her so she could keep a roof over her child’s head. She knew she had to decide between a life of slavery and abuse or a life that maybe just might lead to freedom.
I held her hand while the nurse collected evidence. Tears streamed down her face. She was embarrassed and scared and scarred. We locked eyes. I could tell that it finally dawned on her — she could be pregnant. Rapists, even ones who pledge to cherish you forever, usually don’t use condoms. Oh God, her eyes screamed, “I’ll be trapped forever.”
My time with that beautiful woman was twenty years ago. Had she been raped forty years ago, the police would have calmly explained to her that a man can’t rape his wife. To this day, I don’t know if she was pregnant or not. I don’t know if she left or not. And it’s none of my business.
Ten years later, I received a call from my best friend, who in the years since high school, had become very anti-choice. The marching, protesting, bloody baby doll in a jar kind of anti-choice you may have seen on TV. To her core, she believed that abortions are an act of murder and that they don’t give women choices, they enslave them.
After years of trying to conceive, she was finally pregnant. Like Abraham’s wife, her joy was nearly holy and we both celebrated this gift from God. Then in a routine visit to the Navy hospital, she was told that her baby was gone. No heart beat. No baby. The only way to keep her safe, the Lieutenant explained, was a D&C. She was devastated and choice-less. To this day, I don’t know if she realizes that a D&C is the correct medical term for an abortion. I don’t know if the doctors were right or if there was a miracle in store. And it’s none of my business.
Like every woman I know, I hate abortions. I hate that some women have to make that decision while other women can’t get pregnant. I hate that some men leave and I hate that others have little say in the matter. But I really hate that Congress thinks it should be able to insert itself into the most private, humiliating, complicated, terrifying moments of a person’s life. Those moments, those decisions are best left up to the people who are living them and the ones they medically, emotionally, spiritually trust.
Heather Beaven is the CEO of a school-to-work 501c3, a Navy Veteran, an Army wife and mother of two daughters. She can be found atheatherbeaven.policymic.com and you can follow her on twitter at @electbeaven