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The young woman wants her story told. But she doesn't want to be identified in the newspaper. Who can blame her?

She and her husband talked about the public's need to understand real-life complications of the over-simplified abortion issue. But they also discussed their need for privacy in their pain.

You know how people are anymore, especially on this issue. You don't need hate mail or threats on top of losing your baby. You don't need to be subpoenaed to testify in a federal lawsuit.

I said that, sure, I'd tell the story without the young woman's name.

She is 30 now. She was 28 when it happened, when she was in the 16th week of pregnancy with her first child.

She was doing everything right and was excited about the developing life within her. As the book dictated, she went in during her 16th week of pregnancy for the recommended "quad test."

It showed an abnormality.

She was told such findings were common and often amounted to nothing, but that she would have to be referred for firmer findings to a specialist.

She went for that appointment at the earliest opportunity, in her 17th week.

That's when she got the news. Her baby suffered from anencephaly, by which the brain, skull and scalp don't form properly.

Her child would have no sensory perception. Either the fetus would die, or the baby would die during birth, or survive maybe hours, or survive at the very most only a few days. The condition was, as the medical journals put it, "life-incompatible."

She made the decision to terminate the doomed pregnancy.

That meant she had to be referred again. And abortion-restrictive laws required her to undergo another ultrasound and endure other hurdles, such as reading informational materials about options to abortion.

Then, on the sixth day of the 18th week of her pregnancy, the first opportunity, she underwent the procedure.

Under a bill just passed by the Legislature, what she did will become illegal, provided the new statute doesn't get enjoined in its entirety on constitutional grounds.

The latest anti-choice initiative at this legislative session presumes to ban abortions--except in cases of rape or incest or medical complication for the mother--after 18 weeks.

It has no provision providing any exception in cases of fatal fetal abnormality.

"It's the heartlessness of that, the absolute lack of compassion," the young woman told me.

"Heartlessness is exactly the word for it," freshman state Rep. Megan Godfrey of Springdale told me when I related the story. "Stories like this one are not uncommon."

Godfrey has talked tearfully of her own miscarriage, and just as tearfully of women in the condition I describe--beset by great tragedy and loss and, now, given no consideration at all by a club of mostly men in the state Legislature. All they get is tragedy-compounding meanness.

This is not about the basic abortion debate. I'm not engaging in that here.

This is about a woman being told she must carry a doomed pregnancy. This is about a heartbroken woman's right to humanity.

State Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway, the prime sponsor of the bill, told me the issue was sure-enough abortion generally. He said "defenders of Planned Parenthood and the culture of death" always bring up some issue like this one--occurring only once in 5,000 pregnancies, he said.

Two things on that: One in 5,000 pregnancies amounts to a lot of grieving mothers. And meanness applied rarely is no less mean to the relative few to whom it's applied.

Rapert said he feels great sympathy for mothers in the circumstance I describe. He said that, in the fetal-heartbeat bill a few years ago, he included a "fatal fetal anomaly" exception.

"But it didn't change anything, because that's just an excuse," he said. "It's never enough for them."

Still, why not do the compassionate thing for women in the described circumstance? "No one asked me to," Rapert replied.

I asked Godfrey about Rapert's position. She said, "Telling the stories of grieving mothers is not a tactic to me. It's the way I choose to operate with empathy and compassion, now as an elected official, and before as a grieving mother myself who walked alongside these women who have real pain and stories worth hearing."

Two things are always possible. One is that Rapert is correct that, in some cases, pro-choice people pick out these rare horrors to argue for abortion generally without addressing abortion generally. The other is that, even if so, there ought to be an exception in the law for the circumstance described here.

I'm not arguing for abortion choice today. I might do that another day.

I'm arguing today for one traumatized woman in 5,000, if Rapert's statistics are right.

Rapert ought to recall the bill, add an amendment for fetal abnormality and call everyone's bluff.

That way we could help some people while we argue about abortion generally.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 03/14/2019

Print Headline: JOHN BRUMMETT: Her right to humanity


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  • RBear
    March 14, 2019 at 8:27 a.m.

    Great column, John. It amazes me how right wingers will claim that one fraudulent vote out of millions of votes is too much, but will ignore something like one fetal abnormality out of 5,000 pregnancies when dealing with abortion issues.

  • GOHOGS19
    March 14, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.

    Liberals do not understand - give the baby a chance at life, not a death sentence.

  • JA40
    March 14, 2019 at 9:02 a.m.

    You gotta remember, the right wingers won't buy into facts or the truth. Proven time and again.

  • GeneralMac
    March 14, 2019 at 9:16 a.m.

    Abortion is such a laughing matter.

    Recall that picture of last years pro-abortion march organized by Ms Combs.

    There was a picture of a dufus guy sucking on his fingers trying to whistle while an old gray haired lady next to him laughed hysterically.

    (that pictire was right in this very newspaper )

  • PopMom
    March 14, 2019 at 9:26 a.m.

    This is a very good column and it certainly should be an exception. I also would add an exception until 22 weeks for certain really horrible medical conditions, and I would list them. I am very much against late term abortions of healthy babies.

  • mrcharles
    March 14, 2019 at 9:52 a.m.

    GM, and his lesser imps just love babies in the womb, but [ most] once the baby is born is a burden on society who must be punished even in the 2nd decade of the 21st century by punishing their parents which punishes the child.

    As to the theology of the issue, again most southern heritage people and others of divine inclination, not familiar with their ancient book when they pronounce, should study the ways of the lord and his injunctions on this subject.

    Some would say remove the restraints to birth control, but those high divines , with facts only known to them and not us, say NO, that might promote sexual activity. Guess they are pretty stupid and/or cant read, as ever since we were covered with hair , having bad teeth and pretty stinky, the patriarchs of the clan have had the thought and urge to not only covet [ they had no 10 commandment then to warn them of important matters] but to go forth and populate the earth or at least engage in the activities that might make that occur.

    Many believe that those who are not in favor of abortion only have that opinion so that they can have plenty of children born to justify their constant b i t c h i n g and complaining and griping.

    Would not it be consistent to include in these anti abortion bills the right of a mother to have full and complete pre natal care to have a healthy child the divines so want to protect. Or do they have some bizarre fascination with having sick children?

    March 14, 2019 at 9:53 a.m.

    KlansmanMac, that's the 79th time you've mentioned that picture.

    You might consider getting help for your obsessive disorders.

  • SarahBee
    March 14, 2019 at 9:53 a.m.

    PopMom. Some abortions do not qualify as being for a good reason or a bad reason. The only reason is that one woman makes the decision about HER pregnancy. Period. Unless you walk in another's shoes, you can't know the reason, and it isn't up to anyone else to judge.

  • PopMom
    March 14, 2019 at 10:14 a.m.


    As the decision in Roe. V. Wade contemplated, the decision stops being about her as the fetus grows older. It certainly would be barbaric in most cases to kill a viable healthy baby, and babies are starting to live after 22 weeks. Society has a right to protect the infant and enforce rules of morality.

    Of course, we all judge each other all the time. If somebody wants to get an abortion, it needs to be done quickly. Yes, I do judge those who would end the life of a healthy baby as it is becoming fully developed. Why not just wait a while longer and give the child up for adoption? Would it be too much of an inconvenience to go away to a home for unwed mothers or to explain to people that you are pregnant and giving the child to an infertile couple?

  • PopMom
    March 14, 2019 at 10:17 a.m.


    Didn't you say that you are in your mid 70s? Sounds like an old gray haired lady is about your speed. You shouldn't be so ageist. There is a 70 year old guy in my yoga class who competes in cycling races and skis the hard mountain courses. Age is just a number.