US Senator Gary Peters, a moderate and low-key Democrat from Michigan, is in a very close re-election race that could decide if his party wins the Senate. But he’s not the kind of guy who usually makes national headlines. He is known more for being a dad who enjoys riding his motorbike and drinking local beer than for saying things that catch the eye. So it may be surprising that with this story he becomes the first sitting senator in American history to publicly share a personal experience of abortion.
“It’s a story of how heartbreaking and complicated decisions can relate to reproductive health, a situation I experienced with my first wife,” he told me in a phone interview. Sunday afternoon.
In the late 1980s in Detroit, Peters and his then-wife Heidi were pregnant with their second child, a baby they really wanted. Heidi was four months old when her water broke, leaving the fetus without amniotic fluid – a condition he couldn’t survive. The doctor told the Peters to go home and wait for a miscarriage to occur naturally.
But that did not happen. They returned to the hospital the next day and the doctor detected a slight heartbeat. He recommended an abortion, as the fetus still had no chance of survival, but it was not an option due to a hospital policy prohibiting the procedure. So he sent the couple home to wait for a miscarriage. “The mental anguish a person goes through is intense,” says Peters, “when trying to miscarry a child who was wanted.”
While they waited, Heidi’s health deteriorated. When she returned to the hospital on the third day, after another night without a natural miscarriage, the doctor told her the situation was dire. She could lose her uterus within hours if she couldn’t have an abortion, and if she became septic from a uterine infection, she could die.
The doctor appealed to the hospital’s board of directors for an exception to its anti-abortion policy and was refused. “I still remember vividly he left a message on the answering machine saying, ‘They refused to give me permission, not on the basis of good medical practice, just based on politics. I recommend that you immediately find another doctor who can perform this procedure quickly, ”recalls Peters.
The Peters were able to walk into another hospital right away because they were friends with its chief administrator. Heidi was rushed into an emergency abortion that saved her uterus and possibly her life. The whole experience was “painful and traumatic,” Heidi said in a statement. “Without urgent and critical medical attention, I could have lost my life.”
Reflecting on the experience now, Senator Peters says it “had an incredible emotional impact.” So why make it public? “It’s important that people understand that these things happen to people every day,” he explains. “I have always considered myself to be pro-choice and believe women should be able to make these decisions for themselves, but when you live them in real life you realize the significant impact this can have on a person. family.”
Peters decided to share the story at that point because the right to make such decisions as a family, without politics, has never been more at stake. He is alarmed by the threat that President Donald’s candidate Trump’s Supreme Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett is lobbying for women’s reproductive rights. The very conservative candidate once signed his name on a newspaper ad call Roe vs. Wade, the historic 1973 decision that legalized abortion, “barbaric”. If Republicans successfully confirmed her to take Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, she could reverse legal abortion in America or reduce it significantly. “It’s important for people who are willing to tell these stories to tell them, especially now,” says Peters. “The new Supreme Court candidate could make a decision that will have major ramifications for women’s reproductive health for decades to come. This is a pivotal moment for reproductive freedom. ”
It is also a pivotal moment for his campaign. With so much at stake for Peters in a purple state that failed Trump in 2016, it is remarkably daring of him to go public with his own abortion story less than a month before the election. Three members of the House have publicly declared having had abortions – California Representatives Barbara Lee and Jackie Speier and Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal – but no sitting senator.
Peters’ position on the issue could not be more different from that of his Republican challenger, John James, who supports the overthrow of Roe and has called abortion “genocide”. James openly opposes abortion in almost all circumstances, including rape and incest cases, and he won’t say if he supports allowing the procedure to save the mother’s life. National anti-abortion groups have approved James and poured money into his Senate campaign.
But abortion rights activists are hopeful that Peters sharing his story will help put a human face on the sensitive and historically politicized issue, and in so doing, will help them in the fight to protect Ginsburg’s legacy. “Senator Peters’ family is an example of countless stories across our country of the injustice and prejudice that occurs when we allow politicians who know nothing about our lives to make decisions about our pregnancies,” he said. said Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL. silence, it not only gives a voice to what is at stake, but it reminds us of our common humanity and our quest for dignity and compassion as we strive for reproductive freedom for all.
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