Yes, I have a child with a disability. I’m still pro-choice.

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I feel I have to write this post, in the midst of Spina Bifida awareness month and all, because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

I see it a lot, parents of kids with SB or other disabilities, angry that at some point in their fetal diagnosis experience, a doctor dared offer them the option of terminating their pregnancy. I agree that a lot of the time, this “option” is presented in what some feel is a hurtful way, a way they believe suggests that their kids’ lives aren’t worth living, a way that seems to later produce parents who are defiant– doctors said my kid shouldn’t live, but NOW LOOK AT HIM! TAKE THAT, DOCTORS! No one ever presented that option to us, just like the fetal surgeries weren’t an option for us, because it would have risked the other twin too much, so I have never felt pressured in any way to terminate a pregnancy.

I also admit that I read things like a stat that says 60% of parents who receive a fetal diagnosis of Spina Bifida choose termination, and it makes me sad. Because I look at my beautiful, vibrant Claire, and I do think her life is obviously worth living. I’m madly in love with her. I can’t imagine life without her.

But the thing is, I realize that my life, my choices, and even my daughter aren’t the same as everyone else’s situation. I realize, and have testified to that effect before the Arkansas Senate (and on the local news), that not everyone receives a manageable fetal diagnosis– many receive a devastating one. And in the midst of tough choices and pain, I want every family to have safe, compassionate, OPTIONS.

So there it is. I’m the mom of a kid with a disability, and I’m pro choice. Part of why I write, part of why I participate in things like #embracethebif and want people to see what Spina Bifida looks like is because I do think that 60% stat should be far lower. I do think parents should know that kids like Claire are whole, complete, beautiful, and vibrant, because that might make the choice to carry such a pregnancy a little bit easier. It’s also why I support disability rights, fight stigma, and want access to healthcare, childcare, and developmental services. It’s why I support education and employment access. All things that might make the choice to bring a child with a disability into this world a little easier.

But I’m still pro-choice. Pro-child, pro-family, pro-disability, pro-choice. I hope that even if you disagree, you can respect that. I hope that even if you disagree, we can keep fighting together for all the other stuff we do agree on. I don’t want to fight with anyone. I just had to put this out there because I was uncomfortable with some of the anti-choice ways Spina Bifida Awareness rhetoric can be used, and I don’t want to be lumped in with that.

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Ms. Bufflo goes to the capitol

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Image I took on my way inside to testify before the committee, via my Instagram feed.

Today, I spoke before an Arkansas senate committee. Last night I was on the evening news.

Rep. Andy Mayberry is making national headlines by trying to ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation (that’s the halfway mark, FYI). He claims this is because this is the point at which a fetus begins to feel and respond to pain, and he cites some studies, but this is hardly an established fact, and is controversial in the medical community. In the committee today, he testified that 98% of abortions happen before 20 weeks. Why would the minority get such a late abortion? It’s not because they just didn’t get around to it or had a sudden change of heart. Something big happens at 20 weeks. It’s the point in a pregnancy when the “big ultrasound” happens. The one that tells you if you’re carrying a boy or a girl (or two girls, in my case), but also the one that tells you for the first time that there could be something seriously wrong, even life-threatening, with your fetus. I know what it’s like to sit in that ultrasound room and get bad news. Like Andy Mayberry, who also has a daughter with spina bifida, I am fortunate that our news wasn’t as bad as it could have been. My daughter and the Mayberry’s daughter have a condition that is treatable and manageable and won’t stand in the way of a full life. Many parents are not so fortunate. For many parents, that moment in the ultrasound room is what turns a wanted pregnancy into a nightmare of heartbreaking news and difficult choices. Placing an abortion ban at that point in a pregnancy leaves these parents without options right when they need them most. It places a legislature between families and their doctors, right when those families most need compassionate care.

I know some will say that the bill has been amended to include exceptions for the health of the mother, for fetal anomalies, and for rape and incest. But as one of my own doctors testified before another committee, when we’re talking criminality for doctors who provide abortions, how much of threat does there have to be before it’s “enough” to justify an abortion? I have a congenital heart defect and a previous severe cardiac pregnancy complication, but no one can say exactly how risky another pregnancy would be for me. My doctors agree that I should not have more children for the sake of my health, but my condition is very very rare, and there isn’t much data on it, let alone actual odds of my survival. Do you think my doctors are willing to risk jail time and the loss of their career and livelihood on my chances of survival? I don’t. And yet I am not willing to risk leaving my girls motherless, and should my IUD fail (as it could, I personally know people who became pregnant with an IUD), I would not think twice before terminating to protect my own life and stay here to care for the girls who need me.

The bill passed the committee despite my testimony. It will probably pass the Senate. The governor will probably sign it. I fear for the state my girls will grow up in, and I fear for their rights and mine.

For every mother who testified that she’s glad she carried her anencephalic baby to term (that’s a baby with no brain and a damaged skull, with no chance of survival outside the womb), there are mothers thankful they had the opportunity for a post-20-week abortion (essentially an induction of labor), to prevent needless suffering for her and her doomed child. For everyone like Andy Mayberry and me, whose kids will have challenges but lead full and happy lives, there are people who got literally fatal news. For everyone like me who survived pre-eclampsia and peri-partum cardiomyopathy, there are people whose fatal complications developed too early to save themselves and their babies, and were forced to deliver to save their own lives, meanwhile their babies could not be saved. For everyone on the other side who calls themselves a compassionate conservative fighting for life, there is someone like me, literally fighting for her own, asking for compassionate choices when we need them most.

If you’re in Arkansas, please start writing to your senators and the governor and urge them not to let this bill pass. Post 20-week abortions are rare because they only happen in the most dire of circumstances. These people deserve compassion.

trust women

Today is the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.  While anti-choice activists are marching on Washington (or in the comfort of their own homes, weirdly enough), those of us who believe in a woman’s right alone to make all choices about her body and her pregnancy are participating in Blog for Choice Day.  The theme of this year’s event are the words of assassinated OB/Gyn Dr. George Tiller: Trust Women.  Specifically, what does “trust women” mean?

To me it means that trusting women– to make the right choices for themselves and their bodies, trusting that they do not make choices lightly, trusting that they alone know their circumstances, lives, and hearts– trusting women is the only way to go.

And because I am slammed at work, I will link to these interesting facts about abortion in the US from the Guttmacher (there I go again wanting to type Gut-muncher) Institute.  One that particularly struck me was that 60% of abortions are performed on women who already have at least one child, confirming my suspicion that often, women choose abortion because they know they cannot support, either emotionally or financially, another child, not because, as some anti-choicers would have us believe, because they hate babies and do not understand what it means to be a mother.

I’ll also share a previously posted piece I wrote about “common ground on abortion,” a hot topic in the age of Obama, and what I really think we should all be coming together to work on, be we for or against a woman’s right to choose (as you’ll see, I think being anti-choice is as sensical as being for Prohibition of alcohol): Continue reading “trust women”

stirring up…conversation

Earlier today, I tweeted this:
It was in response to reading a rumor that the Christian (as they define it) organization Focus on the Family is set to spend $4 million on an anti-abortion-rights ad during the Super Bowl.  According to rumor, the ad would feature the parents of college football phenom Tim Tebow, and would tell how they chose not to abort their son, despite recommendations from a doctor (Mrs. Tebow had been on some meds that could have seriously damaged her fetus), they chose to carry the pregnancy to term, and that baby grew up to be a football star.

My tweet was re-tweeted a few times by some of my Twitter friends, people I don’t know in real life, but who I’m closer to than Kevin Bacon if it came down to degrees of separation. I know people who know these people, and who knows, maybe once we move to Little Rock, I’ll know them myself.  Those re-tweets and replies stirred up more replies. Continue reading “stirring up…conversation”

common ground on abortion?

President Obama has drawn both praise and criticism for meeting with groups on both sides of the abortion issue and attempting to find “common ground.”  One of the things I like about Obama, that I think many people like about him, is that he seems the type to listen to people with whom he both agrees and disagrees, and then try to come to a thoughtful conclusion.

The one problem with all this common ground on abortion stuff?

People who think that making abortion illegal will end or even put a dent in the number of abortions performed annually are wrong.

Yep. A new report from the Guttmacher (I always see this word and think gut-muncher for some reason) Institute found that

While the incidence of abortion is closely related to that of unintended pregnancy, it does not correlate with abortion’s legal status. Indeed, abortion occurs at roughly equal rates in regions where it is broadly legal and in regions where it is highly restricted.

Making abortion illegal does not change the number of abortions. Period. We should look at people who want to overturn Roe v. Wade about the same way as we look at people who supported Prohibition. Continue reading “common ground on abortion?”

tragic

Dr. George Tiller.  Image via the New York Times.
Dr. George Tiller. Image via the New York Times.

It’s tragic that a Kansas physician, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered while ushering at church this morning by a terrorist (yes, a terrorist.  When you kill a person in hopes of intimidating and striking fear in an entire group of people, it’s terrorism).  It’s crazy to me that anyone who claims to be “pro-life” would take a life in this way.  Also crazy to me is that media outlets including the AP continue to refer to him as “late term abortion provider George Tiller.”  Really?  Which one aspect of Jon’s profession should I choose to refer to him by?  “Lumbar puncturer Jon [Bufflo]?”  Maybe “Lung sounds listener Jon [Bufflo]?” No, accurately, it’s “pediatrician Jon [Bufflo].”  George Tiller was an OB/Gyn.  Who sometimes performed “late term abortions” in the course of his care for his patients.  To refer to him as “late term abortion provider George Tiller” is to further inflame the divisions that caused this tragedy in the first place, and it’s bad journalism.