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Monique Ruffin

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Rick Santorum Has Got His Hand Up My Dress

Posted: 02/24/2012 6:29 pm

Rick Santorum's recent comments make my head spin:

We're talking about specifically prenatal testing, and specifically amniocentesis, which is a procedure that actually creates a risk of having a miscarriage when you have it, and is done for the purposes of identifying maladies of a child in the womb. And in many cases -- and in fact in most cases -- most physicians recommend, if there is a problem, they recommend abortion.

Rick Santorum's statement is accurate in that most fetuses shown by prenatal tests to have maladies are aborted, but that is not because of the doctors' advice or because of President Obama's health-care plan. His position is that such testing should not be covered by health insurance. The out-of-pocket cost for extensive prenatal care can be upward of $2,000.

Understandably, most Americans live their lives as if what happens in Washington has no impact on their daily experiences, overlooking the reality that nearly every part of their lives -- from the taxes they pay to the food they eat -- is regulated by those in Washington D.C. The media makes a sport and entertainment out of issues that will in one way or another touch each and every American. Which brings me back to Rick Santorum's recent statements about prenatal testing, and why it should not, according to him, be paid for by medical insurance.

Over five years ago, I was pregnant, and my partner and I both had a sickle-cell trait. After learning that our child could have a great chance of being born with sickle-cell disease, we decided that it would be best to learn more through prenatal testing. Moreover, I was 35, and right at the age when these types of tests are recommended, irrespective of the parents' health status. We learned that our son would likely have Down syndrome. Our geneticist and doctors never recommended that we have an abortion and did their best to give us as much information as possible about caring for a child with Down syndrome. Most of the information was speculative, as each case is unique, and each affected child has his or her own experience. Even though we did not opt to abort our son and we are grateful we did not, I do understand why parents choose to end such pregnancies.

Rick Santorum's statement misses the fact that prenatal care helps people prepare, as best they can, themselves, their environments, and their communities for the expected child. We chose to have our son after having the amniocentesis because it felt like the best thing for our family. Yes, we prayed and meditated about it, but not because we wanted God's blessing. We simply needed to know for ourselves that we could accept and love whomever was coming into our lives. We are a pro-choice family, and we made the best choice for ourselves under the circumstances. Every family facing this type of pregnancy deserves the right to do what is best for them, without government policy limiting the ability to knowledgeably ascertain what that is. I know firsthand that prenatal testing is a supportive resource offering women, families, and community members information about possibilities that can dramatically change their lives.

Rick Santorum's comments might seem outrageous to many and even comical to others. And while we may find the recent campaign diversions entertaining, we mustn't forget that our elected leaders have a great deal of power, reaching from Washington D.C. into our doctors' offices, making decisions for us while our legs are up in stirrups. And if Rick Santorum is our next president, women 35 and up might find themselves laughing their way to the local paycheck-advance agency in order to pay for the prenatal testing that will no longer be covered by their health plan. We must remember that it is in fact we the people who are impacted by the legislation that gets passed in Washington. We must elect leaders who will consider the needs of all citizens: those with vast resources and those with limited. Ultimately the laws they sign into action will have a very real impact on our pocketbooks, our hearts, and our lives.

 
 
 

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