Over the last few weeks many of us have read, written and emailed about a young mother in El Salvador named Beatriz. We have shaken our heads, cried to our partners, and shouted out in anger that yet another woman might lose her life, denied the basic medical care she needs -- an abortion. Like so many others Beatriz had become a hostage of political gamesmanship and government intrusion. For months her government turned a blind eye to the advice of her doctors. Never mind that she would die without the opportunity to end her pregnancy, or that the fetus she carried was unviable. Never mind that she was already the mother of a young child.
At first look, Beatriz's circumstances are extreme. She has lupus, hypertension and kidney failure, and for the past 27 weeks endured a pregnancy she and her doctors knew needed to end. After months of anguish and pleading with authorities, on June 3rd Beatriz was finally permitted to undergo a C-Section called a hysterotomy. She delivered a fetus with such extreme birth defects that it only lived a few hours. She herself survived, but at great cost. The impact of carrying the pregnancy so long complicated her lupus and compromised her kidneys.
Yes, at first glance, Beatriz's circumstances are extreme. But, sadly they are shared by women across Latin America, who face some of the most restrictive abortion bans, and by many women here in the United States, who face mounting barriers to safe, affordable abortion care.
Beatriz' circumstances are illustrative of others around the world and in the United States. Here, one in three women will have an abortion in her life time. For too many of us, moralizing political rhetoric, onerous government restrictions and cultural stigma silence our experiences and create costly barriers that threaten our health and all too often endanger our lives.
This week's Congressional committee hearing on a federal 20-week abortion ban so extreme it does not even include exceptions for victims of rape or incest, women whose health is endangered by a pregnancy or cases of severe fetal anomalies, is yet another example of a policy that would make it impossible for a woman in difficult circumstances to end a pregnancy if she needs to.
For months Beatriz was denied outright the care that could save her life. Her story is her own, yet it is also ours, as we stand in solidarity and support. We are Beatriz. We are also the teen in Jackson, Miss., forced to obtain permission from an abusive parent who denies it; the middle-aged mother in El Paso, Tex., with so few resources she can't scrape together enough money to end her pregnancy but can't fathom how she can possibly support another child; the couple in Salt Lake City, Utah, forced to endure a barrage of falsehoods about the "side-effects" of abortion and made to wait three days in a roadside motel before being permitted to return to the clinic for the procedure; the young girl in Lancaster, PA afraid to tell her parents she is pregnant and who instead gives birth in a high school bathroom.
We are one in three. We are Beatriz. Abortion is and always has been a common experience in women's lives. Each of us knows someone -- a mother, a sister, a girlfriend, an aunt -- maybe it is us who has had an abortion. Some of us are "fortunate" to have enough money or insurance coverage, live close enough to a provider, or are old enough not to need judicial bypass. But too many of us are Beatriz, forced to endure onerous policies that restrict our access and at times endanger our health and wellbeing.
We are Beatriz. She is us. Her story gives us the courage to tell our own--to break through the stigma we are made to feel that silences our voices and keeps us isolated. One in three of us will have an abortion in our lifetime. We cannot afford to stay silent. Beatriz's circumstances cried out for our attention. We became her. She became us. We must speak up for her, for ourselves, for our daughters, and for all of the women and families who have lost someone or who have been harmed because safe, abortion care was too difficult to obtain or outright denied. We are 1 in 3.
Deb Hauser is the President and Executive Director of Advocates for Youth, a national nonprofit that champions programs policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health. Advocates' Youth Activist Network stands 75,000 strong on 1,000 campuses across the country. Advocates published the book "1 in 3: These are our Stories" a collection of women's first hand accounts of their experiences with abortion.
Jessica González-Rojas is the Executive Director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the only national reproductive justice organization that specifically works to advance reproductive health and rights for Latinas. She has been a leader in progressive movements for over 15 years.
Rev. Harry F. Knox is the President/CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. He holds a Masters in Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary, from which he received the Robert V. Moss Medal for Excellence in Ministry
Find out more on the 1 in 3 statistic and campaign at 1in3campaign.org