It’s no secret that Oklahoma is one of the most difficult places in the country to get an abortion. The state has passed almost every anti-choice restriction in the book–an ultrasound law, 24-hour waiting period, parental consent, 20-week fetal pain law, a total ban on medical abortions–forcing the Oklahoma Supreme Court to step in on multiple occasions in the last several years. (Just the other day the court confirmed that it really, truly does believe that the medical abortion ban is unconstitutional. Really.)
In an excellent article at MSNBC, Irin Carmon looks at the effect these restrictions had on one couple who found out late in their pregnancy that their baby had a severe brain malformation. Since the state’s 20-week ban provides no exception for fetal anomalies, they were forced to travel to Dallas.
On their last night in Dallas, the ramen noodles and microwave popcorn were finished. The money for the motel had run out too. So on a hot August night Jessica and Erick Davis and their three young kids slept in the Mazda rented for the trip.
It had only been a few hours since Jessica’s abortion. Because the procedure needed to be performed later in her pregnancy, it stretched over three days.
“I cried until I could fall asleep,” she said.
Earlier that month, at home in Oklahoma City, the Davises were told that the boy she was carrying had a severe brain malformation known as holoprosencephaly. It is rare, though possible, for such a fetus to survive to birth, but doctors told them that he would not reach his first birthday. “He would never walk, lift his head,” Jessica, 23, recalled in an interview.
“I could let my son go on and suffer,” she said. Or she could accept a word she didn’t like – abortion – “and do the best thing for my baby.”
The Davises’ ordeal was always going to be painful. But the grim path that led them to a night in the car was determined, nearly every step of the way, by a state that has scrambled to be the most “pro-life” in the nation. There are no exceptions for families like the Davises.
And since Oklahoma also forbids state Medicaid from covering abortion care, the Davis, who are both unemployed, had to scrap together $3,500 for the trip on their own, returning to a house without gas or water and a stack of unpaid bills.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.