DURHAM — In February 2016, I got pregnant for the third time. My husband and I had a year-old daughter, but my second pregnancy had ended in miscarriage a few months prior. We were cautiously excited for this pregnancy, and as we neared the end of the first trimester, our excitement grew.

But then we got scary news: The latest ultrasound showed a possible birth defect, a hole in the baby’s abdomen. The doctor said it could be nothing, but we needed a follow-up scan to be sure.

Two weeks later we walked into the specialist’s office knowing that what we’d learn that day would change our lives. As soon as the tech pulled up our baby’s image, I knew that she (we later learned it was a girl) was not healthy: Her heart, along with her other internal organs, had formed outside her torso in a large sac.

The ultrasound was excruciatingly brief and mostly silent. A few minutes later, a doctor came in to tell us our baby had a rare and severe defect that could not be corrected surgically. Our baby’s condition was incompatible with life, and she would never survive to term.

I struggled to hold it together as the doctor explained our options. I could continue the pregnancy and be monitored regularly to see how long it took for the baby to die. Or I could decide to end the pregnancy. They would provide the best medical care either way, but he was clear that continuing the pregnancy would not change the outcome and would mean a higher risk of complications like infection and infertility for me.

After talking with the specialist and a genetic counselor, we decided it was best for our family to end the pregnancy at 13 weeks. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s one we’ve never regretted. We know we made the best decision we could in those circumstances, based on the medical expertise we received and what felt right for our family.


We were still grieving our loss when we got a letter from the insurance company. We had good insurance through my husband’s job as an engineer for the federal government, so we were shocked when it said we owed nearly $7,000 because “abortions were not covered except in the cases of rape, incest or where the mother’s life is in danger.”

Receiving this letter felt like ripping off a bandage over fresh wounds. We weren’t only dealing with losing a much-wanted pregnancy, but now we felt judged. It felt as invasive as if these politicians had walked into the room during my ultrasound and made that deeply personal decision for me.

I am a mother, wife, daughter, friend, community member – and yet all that seemed to matter was whether I was able and willing to continue a pregnancy, regardless of the outcome. It felt dehumanizing to have my health and life valued so little and to have my family’s suffering treated like a political football.

We later learned that this happened to us because of the Hyde Amendment. Initially passed by Congress in 1976 and renewed each year since then, it prevents people with government insurance – including federal employees like my husband, members of the military, volunteers in the Peace Corps and people enrolled in Medicaid – from having insurance coverage for abortion.

I know I am privileged to have been able to seek out care even without insurance coverage. For many low-income women, those most affected by the Hyde Amendment, this restriction places an impossible hardship on their ability to get the care that’s best for them, potentially pushing them further into poverty.

It’s cruel.

There is a bill in Congress called the EACH Woman Act (H.R. 771) that would undo the harmful Hyde Amendment. It has more than 130 co-sponsors, including my congresswoman, Chellie Pingree. I hope more members of Congress will lend their support to the bill and end the Hyde Amendment.

It’s not easy sharing such personal matters, but I chose to tell my story so that people in my community, including my members of Congress, can understand how the Hyde Amendment actually affects women and our families.

It is not a politician’s place to decide when or how or why a woman gets an abortion. Yet that is exactly what the Hyde Amendment does. It’s time we end Hyde.

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