Please Call Your Representative About House Bill 36 Today! (Script Included!)

On Tuesday, October 3, Congress will be voting on House Bill 36 which is a 20 week abortion ban.

If this had been in effect when we learned about Grace's disease last November, we would not have been able to terminate the pregnancy, thus meaning I would have had to continue carrying her until she was either crushed to death by the pressure of my body without amniotic fluid to cushion her, or I would have delivered her to immediate pain and suffering and death. No child with the bilateral type of her disease (which she had) has survived, according to the many doctors we have discussed this with. There is no medical intervention for this. My own risk would have gone up 7 times.

If you'd like to help fight against this (and I'd be grateful if you would!), here is a script you can use for calling your representatives. Currently, the vote is scheduled for Tuesday, October 3rd.

  • Step 1: Find your representative here.
  • Step 2: Call them up! This might sound daunting but I can promise you that dialing is the hardest part. A staff member (not the representative) will answer. You need to say you are a constituent from [say your zip code] and would like to discuss House Bill 36, and request that your representative vote no on it.
  • Step 3: Tell them why! When I call (I've already called about this a few times), I tell them a brief version of my own story. I tell them I know over 500 other women that have had to make the same heartbreaking choice I have and that this will never end for families - many diseases that are fatal for the unborn are not discovered into far further into the pregnancy than 20 weeks. I tell them the bill is based on erroneous information that pain is felt at 20 weeks, when 7 doctors have told me it's more like 24-28 weeks. Here are a few other points:
    • This is another instance of politicians inserting themselves in the most private and personal medical decisions best left between a woman, her doctor, and her family.
    • More than 99% of abortions occur before 21 weeks. Those that occur after 20 weeks are often cases of very much wanted pregnancies that have gone horribly wrong (like mine).
    • This is not about protecting pregnant women or babies. If it were, how would they answer my situation (and the 1% of women that terminate after 21 weeks where their health suffers and their child will die a very painful death if they cannot terminate? This flies in the face of the stated intent of the bill). This is a political move, not one designed with health in mind, otherwise, it would not have medical falsehoods as the premise.
    • Here is a link with lots of other information on why these bills are so harmful: Link
  • Step 4: Thank the staff member for their time and for listening.

That's it! If you'd prefer not to call and to instead fax a message in, Resistbot is an AMAZING tool for this where you can fax from your phone or Facebook messenger! So easy!

I, and all of the women that still have this devastating situation still to come in their lives (your daughters, cousins, sisters, nieces, wives...) all thank you. Even the ones that think they wouldn't: trust me, you wouldn't want to not have the choice to do what you think is best when you face this. You deserve the right to make the choice, even if you'd make a different one that we did.

Learn More About Clean MO Thursday, 9/28 at 6 pm at the Royale!

Hi again, friends!

Since we started sharing Grace's story, we have been overwhelmed by people asking how they can help. Obviously sharing our story helps, but we have something more concrete, which I personally love: I am thrilled when I get a specific action that can help a cause that is important to me. And at this moment in my life, nothing is more important to me than being able to make the right medical decisions for myself and my very, very loved family. 

Tomorrow (Thursday, September 28th) I will be at The Royale with NARAL ProChoice Missouri discussing my family's story, our journey and frustrations becoming advocates, and what everyone that hears it and asks 'how can I help?' can do, which is help with the bipartisan ballot initiative: Clean MO. 

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What’s Clean MO? Some of the initiatives include:

  • Require that legislative records be open to the public
  • Require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists
  • Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly
  • Lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
  • Ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census

If this is something that you feel would be good for Missouri (again, it's bipartisan! It's designed to make our democracy work more fairly!) please come out to The Royale tomorrow (Thursday, 6:00PM). I will be talking about why I think this is important  and how all of you can help in getting Clean MO on the ballot next year. No matter what the cause that's closest to your heart is, this ballot initiative helps make sure laws are more fair and our politicians truly represent us. 

You can learn more about Clean MO here and more about the event (and RSVP!) here:

NARAL Missouri for Clean: Special Guest Robin Utz

Join NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri on Thursday, September 28th at the Royale for a happy hour to meet the people leading the CLEAN Missouri ballot initiative...



Let Me Tell You About My Friend Dana

One of the things that has made losing Grace a little more bearable has been the support from friends and family. I feel like that sentence is so generic it almost doesn't mean anything, but in the moments when you get a card/flowers/text/visit, it makes so a profound difference that no sentence could really capture it. 

I have friends and family that run the gamut across belief systems, including very conservative, Catholic family to deeply liberal, atheist friends and every single person has chosen to show us love and support to whatever extent they find possible. It's been an amazing gift in our lives as we navigate this. It's a unique sort of grief that comes with being presented with such a heartbreaking reality and decision for a very wanted child, and then additionally having that decision be so condemned by much of society. I have been called a murderer more than once. Thankfully, never by anyone whose opinion I value. 

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I quickly become overwhelmed by gratitude for our friends and family when I pause for even a second to consider their generosity of love and spirit, but today I want to put a little spotlight on my friend Dana, who I have known for around 12 years. She has been a great friend to me, from saving my cat's life to being one of two people (along with our friend Beth) that introduced me to Jim. 

Dana was halfway around the world on her honeymoon with her husband Ben when we learned about Grace's fatal fetal diagnosis, and took the time to send us a note expressing her condolences and support when she learned. Little did any of us know she would come home shortly thereafter and learn she was pregnant herself. It put us in a predictably awkward situation with me having just ended a pregnancy I had chased for nearly 4 years, and Dana in the impossible situation of trying to figure out how to tell her grieving friend she was pregnant. She was kind, considerate, and has made sure I feel remembered during her entire pregnancy. It has made a world of difference to me.

When I testified during Governor Greitens's 20k/day special session, I had to cancel dinner plans with Dana and a few friends to make the logistics work. Despite being around 30 weeks pregnant, working full time and facing the last minute nature of testifying (I found out at noon that I was leaving around 7 am the next morning), Dana dropped everything to join me. She drove with me 2.5 each way and sat in the Senate room all day with no breaks for the opportunity to support me and share her own perspective: that watching what the state of Missouri had done to Jim and me after we made what we believe so strongly to be a loving, humane decision to end our pregnancy had cost Dana comfort, security and joy in her own pregnancy. She realized it could happen to anyone, saw how deeply it affected us, and felt compelled to say something to protect other families. Her testimony was powerful, vulnerable and impossible to ignore. 


I have always been and will continue to be grateful for Dana's friendship: at a time when it undeniably might have been more comfortable for her to distance herself from my circumstances in order to feel more secure in her own (especially as a first time mother), she pulled me closer. Dana put her own comfort and safety on the line and stepped out of her comfort zone to speak up for me, Grace, herself and every other woman in Missouri. I am in awe of her strength and her ability to not only own her power, but to also realize and capitalize on the absolutely true fact that anyone can advocate and make a difference: we all have a story, and Dana sharing hers truly made a difference. I can't wait for her baby to be born (any day now!) and to see what kind of mom she is, but no matter how she approaches it, that is one lucky baby to have such an amazing mom.





What I've been up to (NYC, DC, What's Next!)

Hi friends! 

It's been a little while. My lack of posting here doesn't mean I haven't been active in other arenas though... I've just needed a little break from writing. It's so weird going through this.  A year ago I was a month pregnant and nervous and excited and hopeful that it was FINALLY our time. This year... I've had that pregnancy make it to 22 weeks, terminated for medical reasons, then gone on this wild ride of advocacy. I hardly know who I am anymore. I don't know what to do or how to do it or when to take a break or even how to take it. But I hope you'll keep coming along with me while I figure it out. Hopefully I'll do it with some grace and humor.

For the past few months, I have:

  • Been filmed for a documentary with Jim that will be coming out down the line.
  • Saw Lady Parts Justice League's hilarious and powerful Vagical Mystery Tour comedy and outreach show. I almost felt like I was cheating having a good time and laughing there after having tearfully recounted our story just the day before, but well, that's being a fully developed human being right? 
  • I went to New York City and met up with some truly tremendous women that deeply, completely supported us after losing Grace, even when many hadn't met me in person before. Their ability to love, support and show compassion from all around the country has been a great learning experience for me.
  • While I was there I also met up with another highly recommended Reproductive Endocrinologist just to get more eyes on our situation and case and was told we're just really unlucky. I almost had to laugh at that. Sigh.
  • I went to D.C. to see my beloved oldest friend and her family, and spent a day advocating with Erika Christensen and Dr. Julie Bindeman. We met with Representative Barbara Lee, Representative Louise Slaughter, Representative Diana DeGuette's offices, as well as Senator Joseph Manchin's. We were in the Hart Senate Building while the first health care vote of that week was going on, and the protests that disabled individuals from around the country were conducting were stunningly powerful. It felt like such a privilege to be in the room while it was happening. 

I have some shifts in how I want to approach advocacy coming up, but I'm also trying to take a breath for a bit while I figure out the best approach. I feel so overwhelmed by the hurdles we are facing in just getting people to hear and understand this perspective on abortion, and I am having to learn a lot about self care along the way. Others that are fighting, how do you do it? 

Guest Blog: Sam's Story. "Just Adopt"? It Isn't That Easy.

A lot of people wonder why Jim and I don't "just adopt", especially after 4 years of trying to have a baby through infertility treatments and 2 losses.

We have explored adoption in our quest to have a child. Adoption is a beautiful, and it is ALSO not nearly as easy as a lot people think it is. There is no "just adopt".

My friend Samantha (Sam) Blanco shared her story with me recently and it brought me heartache and chills. Please read, consider, learn and share. 

It’s been five years since my husband and I first started trying to have a child. We had a plan from the beginning: we’d have three children, the first two would be biological children, and then we’d adopt a third. But if we didn’t get pregnant within a year, we would go ahead and start the adoption process. What’s laughable now is not that we had this clear plan and thought it would work, but that we thought any plan we made would be easy.

After two years of trying to conceive, we finally started the adoption process.  (At this point, we hadn’t even looked into fertility treatments; it wasn’t until later that we would learn we would not be able to conceive without significant, expensive medical intervention). We carefully selected an adoption agency, went to a two-day training for adoptive parents, and became part of a network of other people trying to adopt. We were optimistic and excited. We waited for two more years. In that time period, our lives were busy while my husband worked on a huge project for work and I pursued my PhD. I imagined that I would graduate and our lives would slow down, then magically a birth mother would call us at the perfect time.  Then on January 31 of this year, we got a mass e-mail from our agency that stated they were declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy and were closing effective immediately. With that e-mail, thousands of dollars, two years of our time, and our hope disappeared into thin air. People often ask us if we’ll ever get our money back (which is highly unlikely), but the loss of time and trust has been far more devastating.

My husband and I made some immediate decisions. I took a semester off of school. We spent more time together, focusing on helping each other get through each day. We were fortunate to have a family member who works in adoption who told us, “You need to mourn this.” So we mourned. Slowly life has returned to normal, except now we’re back to square one.

Suddenly, we’re in a place we never expected to be. We’re both 35. We’re both uncertain what path we want to pursue to parenthood. We’re uncertain if the decisions we made a few years ago are still the right decisions. And we’re processing the emotions and experiences of the past five years while still trying to move forward.

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on our experience. I have a greater understanding of the impact of infertility than I ever could have had as the woman making decisions about parenthood several years ago. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:

Your family and friends may not be ready for your decision. Once we decided to adopt, we spent a lot of time explaining the process to our families and friends. Some of our loved ones were very excited. One of my favorite memories is telling my husband’s cousin, and seeing her immediate joy. Others asked many questions, which we were happy to answer. And while I understood it came from a place of love, some of our loved ones frequently questioned our decision. Don’t you want to at least try IVF? What if you change your mind and want to try it but you’re too old? Are you sure you’ve made this a priority, what if you took some time off work and reduced your stress? Often, these comments were expressions of their own fears, not responses to our excitement about starting a family. These questions also made me feel as if choosing to adopt was somehow equivalent to giving up.

You and your spouse will likely have very different experiences with infertility. There was a point in time where I felt anger and envy towards my husband because our friends and family focused so much of their attention on me when it came to infertility, as if it were something only I was experiencing. Often, we would walk into a party and infertility would be the first thing I was asked about, and I’d look over to see my husband cracking up with friends about the latest episode of whatever show they were watching.  My husband, on the other hand, was feeling his own levels of insecurity about infertility that often he would keep from me.  

When you can’t get pregnant, every option available to you is expensive and invasive. This seems to be the one thing that very few people understand about infertility. Fertility treatments are expensive. Adoption is expensive. Fertility treatments are physically invasive. Adoption and foster care are personally invasive, with requirements to provide great amounts of financial and health information, along with several home visits. Any path a person chooses toward parenthood is complex and carefully thought out. There is not “Why don’t you just do IVF or adopt?” There is no “just.” It’s a long and difficult path.

Feelings of loss related to infertility aren’t what I expected. Not being able to have a biological child was difficult emotionally, but it was not a tragedy in my life. I had always envisioned myself adopting a child, so it was not a big shift for me. I was completely blindsided by the adoption agency declaring bankruptcy. After years of feeling confident in my decisions about becoming a parent, I was suddenly plunged into a depression.  There is no script for explaining to people the loss I was feeling as a result of the agency going bankrupt: a loss of money, time, and most importantly, my trust in systems built for adoption. When you have a baby biologically, you don’t have to second-guess the way you have a child. But with the agency bankruptcy, my husband and I were second-guessing every single decision we had made in our quest to be parents.  

We haven’t decided what we’ll do next. We know so much more than we did when we started this process, but that knowledge hasn’t necessarily better prepared us for making a decision. We’ve been very open about this with our friends and families from the beginning, and value that openness. But one of the negative aspects of that openness is that we are getting a ton of unasked for advice, advice that comes from a place of love and concern, but assumes that they have an answer for us. And perhaps that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned, that there simply is no right answer. My husband and I will be parents one day, but there’s no one right way for us to get there.

Sam Blanco lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two dogs.

An Interview with Lizz Winstead and Things You Can Do to Help RIGHT NOW

This article hitting Feministing regarding Governor Greitens' Emergency Session against reproductive rights to the tune of $20,000/a day of taxpayer money has prompted people to ask what they can do to help, which absolutely thrills me. I shared our story with the hopes it would raise awareness and prompt activism from people, and there are tons of opportunities out there. So without further adieu:

What you can do RIGHT NOW

Call and email your state senator and tell them to gavel out of this expensive, unnecessary, and politically motivated special session. Thank them for working hard on a compromise, and say what the House did is inexcusable. Ask them to please not allow the governor's dark money and political ambitions get in the way of democracy. 

More action items will come when the senate reconvenes. 

What you can do NEXT WEEK (but buy your tickets right now - it will sell out!)

Lizz Winstead, co creator of the Daily Show, is coming to The Blueberry Hill Duck Room in St. Louis next Thursday (June 29) with her Lady Parts Justice League Vagical Mystery Tour. You can find St. Louis event information here (and a list of all shows here). I highly encourage you to go for 2 reasons:

1) Lizz and her fellow comedians are SERIOUSLY funny. I got to see Lizz with Sarah Silverman a year ago and she knocked my socks off.

2) The show also features discussions with local providers and advocates, and provides ideas for ways you can get involved and make a difference looking at the skills you already have. 

I interviewed Lizz to learn more about the show, what they are trying to achieve, her perspective on reproductive rights, and the one thing that everyone can do to make a difference right now. (This content has been modified to be condensed and for clarity):

Tell me about one of the best things about the Vagical Mystery Tour

Lizz: The comedy show brings in a group of people (150-500 people) to have a great time and also have a meaningful talk back about opportunities available to them. We want people to be able to say this was a great experience, and then you’re giving me opportunity to do what I can, also with the time that I have, to make a difference. Some of these things take 20 minutes, an hour, etc.

I have a whole team of people who are excellent comedians, and they talk about life from these different lenses. We have black, brown, trans, white and gay comedians, and people can come to this comedy show and hear about their own lives. 

At the end of each show we have a conversation with someone from a clinic and from an activist group that supports reproductive rights and justice so people can sign up right then and there and learn what they need. We’ve been able to access handymen, painters, designers, landscapers, etc.

These are little things, and the providers are buried with work and care that sometimes they can’t even tell what they need. We have been able to go in, take a tour of the clinic and ask questions and then help.

What is your best advice for someone that wants to make a difference in the arena of reproductive rights?

Lizz: (laughing) Aside from not making your zoo the anti-abortion zoo… First and foremost, when you connect with your local clinic and activists, you can really get information on what’s going on in your state. You want to ask yourself "who is my go to person for information"? Get connected with them.  

While we all talk about all these laws encroaching on reproductive rights, people still need to get care and provide care, and so we need to ask how are we as citizens making sure that the caregivers and those that need abortion are being supported, and not being stigmatized? 

So for example some of the things you can do are escorting patients. Sign up for escort service where you are committing to helping patients get into care without judgment. A bonus is this also means being part of the community that stands with the clinics. You are showing politicians and your community that you are a face and a voice that thinks that clinics are important and are doing a great job.

Another thing you can do is getting together with your like minded friends who are also going "what can we do?" over and over and panicking, and meeting with them so you can open a bottle of wine and send postcards to share your love and support. These organizations and clinics always get so much hate mail, so getting your love and support really matters.

Think about what can you do to lengthen the life of your clinic. Can you throw a fundraiser? Have a mixer at your house where people can get to know your provider or your abortion fund. Treat them like the treasures that they are.

Finding out what the clinics and advocates' needs are. Get together with friends, let a clinic vet you so they know you’re a trusted source, and find out what they need. Often people don’t look at their own lives and skill sets and see how they can help out. If you’re a great graphic designer, or if you’re good at landscaping, you can help! If you’re a good baker, you could bring cupcakes to the clinic 4 times a year to show your appreciation. Maybe help an advocate with their website that needs a new logo. Offer to paint a clinic's fence or do some gardening to maintain the clinic so when patients come in they feel like it’s a nice space and feel welcome, and the people that work there walk in and feel great that their community supports them. Translators especially are needed for refugee cities where Arabic or Spanish are helpful for a patient care advocate. It's nice to have someone on call that can help. These all kinds of things that might be in your personal wheelhouse.

Finally, get on an email list to work with your local advocates and clinics so they can reach out to you whenever you need something and then you can network. The thing is that a lot of times, a clinic that provides abortion services in a community... lawn services or gutter cleaning services won’t come because the clinic provides abortion care. Simple things other business can get just by looking in the yellow pages aren't available to clinics that provide abortions because the providers don’t believe in what the clinic does, or they’ll be targeted by anti-choice people at their business.

I am loving this because it has an avenue for everyone. If there was ONE thing everyone could do, what would it be? 

If you’re too busy, and care about this issue,  I ask every single person to stop using the term pro-life. They are anti-abortion. I have seen clinics that have been firebombed and vandalized. I have friends who are targeted. Patients who have gotten death threats for having abortions*. We cannot cede the term pro-life because they aren’t pro-life. Physicians that are friends of mine - their best friends have been murdered. This is being done by anti-abortion activists. It’s only fair to call them that. Language matters.

 *Robin Note: This is a HUGE reason more women don't share their stories. Trust me. I know a lot of women who have been in my shoes but they don't share publicly. 

Has your approach to LPJL and the Vagical Mystery Tour changed since Trump took office and there has been a bigger proliferation of falsehoods? 

The interesting thing about it is I’m glad we started this organization long before Trump took office. So many people in so many state legislatures were already passing these laws before Trump was in the picture. Oregon is the only state that hasn’t proposed crappy legislation. Really. it's every other state: red states, blue states, purple states. But in the wake of Donald Trump, it’s just gotten worse because the federal legislation and the Supreme Court are very scary.

We need people to understand and pay attention to state legislatures and demand their birth control and abortion care because we are owed them. We must demand from men and women both that they recognize reproductive rights are part of our human rights. 

I know you were raised Catholic, which believes abortion is a sin and murder. How was that transition to where you are now?

I definitely was. The bottom line is I realized I can’t believe in a God that is cruel and retaliatory. I know when I wake up every day that I am doing my best to be a good person. And there is not one word about abortion in the bible. Science says something else different from Catholicism too. 

And the real fact is Catholics have abortions at very high rates, and they use birth control. 

The Vagical Mystery Tour is Thursday, June 29th at Blueberry Hill Duck Room. It starts at 7:30 pm, and you can buy tickets here.