Column: My Grandfather’s Choice

In the early 1930’s, my grandmother was in labor, but something was wrong. A doctor came to my grandfather who was in the waiting room and asked, “Do you want to save the mother or the child?” Shocked by the question and terrified at the specter of losing his wife, my grandfather, Poppy, said, “The mother, of course!”

The loss of this lovingly awaited child in the second trimester was wrenching, as are all late-term losses, but how much worse would have been the death of my grandmother for Poppy and my uncle, then a toddler.

Lea Sylvestro’s grandparents. Photo courtesy of the Sylvestro family.

My mother, the result of a later, successful pregnancy, told me this story. She would not have been here to do so had Poppy made another choice or not been given a choice. I would not be here either. Nor would my two sisters, their sons, my children, and three grandchildren.

Izabela Sajbor, 30, of Poland was excited about having a sibling for her daughter. When, at 14 weeks, the fetus was discovered to have severe abnormalities and would not likely survive, the family was heartbroken. That Izabela was made to carry it to term was torment. But at 22 weeks, she was admitted to the hospital because her water broke prematurely. She wound up developing a fever and convulsing, but due to Poland’s restrictive abortion laws, the doctors were more concerned about the continued fetal heartbeat than the woman slipping away before them. By the time the baby’s heartbeat stopped, septic shock had set in. It was too late to save Izabela.

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee crowed “Life wins!” at the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Another GOP leader spoke in glowing terms of family trees now free to flower with the babies that otherwise might have been lost to abortion. In my family, but for the termination of a pregnancy, the branch occupied by 10 cherished people would not have sprouted.

The Conservatives touting Roe’s demise as a victory for life are choosing, yet again, to ignore history and the deaths that preceded the ruling, as well as the deaths that will surely follow. Beyond criminal sentencing for those seeking abortion, the states howling “No exceptions!” are sentencing women with ectopic pregnancies and women with botched abortions to death. They are sentencing rape and incest victims to compounded trauma. Celebrants of the evisceration of women’s rights over those of a fetus are also of the party that obstructs social programs to help the vulnerable women and children unwanted pregnancies will most affect. The “victors” are all about birth, but then they wash their hands.

Frantic at the removal of a fetus, these self-proclaimed pro-life advocates are the same people who turn bellicose in defending the right to own and brandish murderous weapons. As grieving families bury their loved ones, the hypocrites turn away and vote no to a woman’s right to choose.

“Life wins”? Not so.

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