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LETTERS: Lawmakers have no place in difficult family decisions

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Recently, the U.S. House passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, co-sponsored by Dan Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois’ 3rd District. As an obstetrician with intimate experience with this issue, I know that this ill-informed bill inserts government where we need it least: between patients, families, and doctors at the cusp of life and death.

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I grew up Catholic, and very spiritual. I always had differences with the Church, but still I was drawn to the passion for social justice found there. During residency, I had declined to perform abortions, but my compassion and understanding grew toward these women and families facing what seemed to be nearly impossible situations.

My heart opened as I saw how devastating and complicated it can be when you get down to the real-life-individual level. After getting married, I was lucky enough to get pregnant easily, and I couldn’t wait to meet my first child and be a mom. During a routine checkup, we found out that my first son — my loved and wanted and waited-for child — would be born with a cloacal exstrophy. His lower abdominal wall had not formed correctly. Instead, a mass of organs as big as his head had formed between his little legs.

In the ultrasound, I could barely see his legs and his tiny feet looked already clubbed. His spinal cord was tethered; he would never walk or have a functioning bladder or bowels. A week later, the situation worsened. Two additional complications had developed — his kidneys weren’t working, and therefore his lungs wouldn’t develop. If I carried him to term, he would suffocate upon delivery.

After eagerly preparing for our child, my husband and I agreed that as his parents, our responsibility was to save him terrible and futile suffering. At 13 weeks and 4 days, we ended the pregnancy Ultimately, ending this pregnancy was the most compassionate decision — and the right decision for our family. Our rabbi — my husband is Jewish, and our family is devoutly interfaith — came over that night as we said Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer of mourning. We lit a yartzheit candle for our son, and prayed as we named him Thomas. We had his remains cremated, and a few months later on Mother’s Day, we scattered his ashes over the river by our local park.

Only 1.5 percent of all abortions are after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The most common time, far and away, is prior to 12 weeks. Past that, the reasons for ending a pregnancy are usually that either the women were somehow prevented from seeking care sooner (by legal, financial, or geographic restrictions) or families have been given the devastating news that their beloved child is sick, sometimes fatally so.

As an obstetrician I have given patients this news and watched their world turn upside down, as mine did. I have held sobbing women, prayed with weeping husbands, and quietly offered my presence to their grief. Never have I seen a patient make the decision to end a pregnancy flippantly. Even for the best of reasons, this decision haunts us. But not making that decision would have haunted me even more. There is nowhere in this equation for lawmakers to insert themselves.

Cheryl Axelrod, Wilmette

Trump playbook

It appears that Bruce Rauner has borrowed a page from the Trump playbook, when the going gets tough, create a distraction. After losing almost never ending budget battle and quietly doing what he does best, making cuts in the budget to those who need the services and benefits most (this from the man who cut funding to autism on National Autism Day), discusses a huge proposed project with again, in the governor’s modus operandi, no hint of any details on how this could become a reality.

For all we know, it’s a dream that may never come true. Is it possible that this could become a deal similar to that of his pal Scott Walker in Wisconsin that gave such huge tax breaks that if every part of that deal plays out the state will not see any benefits until 2042? Rauner has received criticism from almost every quarter while governor for what he has done or failed to do. Hopefully this is not just another political distraction to deflect the failures in his time in office.

Daniel Pupo, Orland Park

Off-base comments

It’s hard to say if White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly’s comments regarding Rep. Frederica Wilson and the call to Sgt. La David Johnson’s family were strictly his own or talking points from the president. But they were off base regarding Rep. Wilson listening to the call. By all accounts, she was together with the family when the call was received and she and the family have a long acquaintance.

Gen. Kelly also seems to have made inaccurate statements regarding the congresswoman and her involvement in the dedication of a new federal building in Miami. The word “honorable” appears in nearly every mention of Gen. Kelly. The honorable thing to do now would be to correct his mischaracterization of Rep. Wilson.

Michael Hart, West Ridge