Quick Hit: Here’s what happens if you have a fetal anomaly in Oklahoma

Jessica and Erick Davis

Photo credit: Caty Smith for MSNBC

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.

Read the rest here.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing. 

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/ladykatie/ Kat

    If they could “scrape” together $3500, why did they not scrape together $6 and buy condoms? Pro-Choice means exactly that, being able to make choices, and prevention is a choice as well. The article states they were both unemployed, how were they planning on affording to provide for the babies needs if it didn’t have this condition? I agree that the circumstance is very sad and the oppressive laws provide little flexibility for special cases but it looks like there are way bigger problems here. In such dire financial circumstance they are directly putting the child they already have at risk. Because Mommy and Daddy were not sexually responsible their daughter suffers with living in a house without gas or running water. You can’t put all the blame on legislation. There are three planned parenthoods in Oklahoma city alone.

    • http://feministing.com/members/hereinmiami/ brenna

      “Should have used a condom” seems like a fairly perverse response to this situation; as you semi-acknowledge, they wanted to have this child. So then you move on to “poor people shouldn’t have children.” Perhaps it’s not the safest choice; but human beings don’t make choices about this issue based purely on rationality. While not everyone wants to have children, and having them is no guarantee of happiness, purpose, or love, there is something primal about the desire to nurture, and parenting is one of life’s central meaningful experiences: and no-one should have the right to dictate anyone else’s reproductive choices, especially not on the grounds that they can’t pay their heating bills right now. Meanwhile, we can’t tell now how their financial position might improve, or whether a child of their would emerge from a life of poverty and go on to do great things; and these parents actually seem like they work well together for the best interests of their children.