Tuesday, February 21, 2012
202.667.5881; 202.595.4395 (after hours/cell)
Statement of Christy Zink as delivered at a press conference today:
Good morning. My name is Christy Zink. I, like many women in the Washington, DC area, am a mother. Before arriving here today, I rushed around to get two kids woken up, dressed, and out the door. Between my four-year-old daughter and eight-month-old son there were backpacks, diaper bags, milk bottles, juice boxes, lunch boxes, permission slips, and stuffed bunnies. There were also the mysterious hunt for two matching shoes, and the eternal wintertime battle about wearing a coat.
I, like so many women, work diligently to balance family and work and I feel lucky to have this challenge.
In addition to my two children, I was also pregnant in 2009 and was overjoyed. I would often wonder about whose eyes the baby might have and who my child might grow up to be. I was looking forward to the ultrasound when we would get a chance to have a look at the baby in utero. I never imagined what would happen if something was wrong with the baby. I certainly hadn't anticipated that my husband and I would have to make the most difficult decision of our lives.
I took extra special care of myself during this pregnancy. I received excellent prenatal attention. Previous testing had shown a baby growing on target, with the limbs and organs all in working order. However, when I was 21 weeks pregnant, in almost the same breath that we found out we were having a son; an MRI revealed that our baby was missing the central connecting structure of the two parts of his brain. A specialist diagnosed the baby with agenesis of the corpus callosum. What allows the brain to function as a whole was simply absent. But that wasn't all. Part of the baby's brain had failed to develop. Where the typical human brain presents a lovely, rounded symmetry, our baby had small globular splotches. In effect, our son was missing one side of his brain.
We consulted some of the best radiologists, neurologists, and geneticists not just in our city or in the country, but in the world. We asked every question we could. The answers were far from easy to hear, but they were clear. There would be no miracle cure. His body had no capacity to repair this anomaly, and medical science could not solve this tragedy.
Our son's condition could not have been detected earlier in my pregnancy. Only the brain scan could have found it. The prognosis was unbearable. No one could look at those MRI images and not know, instantly, that something was terribly wrong. If the baby survived the pregnancy, which was not certain, his condition would result in numerous surgeries to remove more of what little brain matter he had in order to diminish what would otherwise be a state of near-constant seizures.
I am here today to speak out against the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It's very premise—that it prevents pain—is a lie. If this bill had been passed before my pregnancy, I would have had to carry to term and give birth to a baby who the doctors concurred had no chance of a life and would have experienced near-constant pain. If my son had survived the pregnancy—which was not certain—he might have never left the hospital. My daughter's life, too, would have been irrevocably hurt by an almost always-absent parent.
The decision I made to have an abortion at almost 22 weeks was made out of love and to spare my son's pain and suffering.
I am horrified to think that the doctors who compassionately but objectively explained to us the prognosis and our options for medical treatment, and the doctor who helped us terminate the pregnancy, would be prosecuted as criminals under this law for providing basic medical care and expertise.
I live and work in Washington, DC. My husband and I own a house here, we vote, and we believe in the democracy at the heart of this country. It is unconscionable that someone would come into my city from the outside and try to impose a law that doesn't represent the best interests of anyone, especially families like mine. This proposed law is downright cruel, as it would inflict pain on the families, the women, and the babies it purports to protect.
It's in honor of my son that I'm here today, speaking on his behalf. I am also fighting for women like me, to have the right to access abortion care when we need to beyond 20 weeks—especially for those women who could never imagine they'd have to make this choice.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in North America. Our mission is to ensure safe, legal, and accessible abortion care to promote health and justice for women. Our members include health care professionals at clinics, doctors' offices, and hospitals, who together care for more than half the women in North America who choose abortion each year. For more information, visit our website at www.prochoice.org.