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With a conservative-majority Supreme Court, will we hear more abortion stories like this one?

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On Wednesday, HuffPost published a piece by Dina Zirlott, an Alabama resident who could not have an abortion in 2005 when she found out she was pregnant as the result of a rape. Her pregnancy was almost at full-term when doctors told Zirlott that her daughter’s condition was “not compatible with life,” but because of restrictions in her state, she could not receive a late-term abortion. Her daughter died when she was several months old. Given these circumstances, Zirlott wrote in the piece, she wishes she could have had an abortion.

Zirlott told her story at a political moment when the state of abortion in the United States is as precarious as ever. During his State of the Union address two weeks ago, Donald Trump spent a lot of time criticizing abortion, namely late-term abortion. The same week, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court voted to block Louisiana legislation that would have required abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals after a drawn-out debate. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a strong dissent to the decision.  

Noah Michelson, Zirlott's editor at HuffPost, told the Women’s Media Center he has seen more responses to this piece than any other he has published on HuffPost's “Personal” vertical. Michelson said he thought Zirlott’s story would resonate with readers considering the current political climate, but he didn’t think he’d see the kind of positive, supportive reactions that poured in all over Twitter.

“Because the piece is so incredibly personal, people really felt like they knew Dina, and they became protective almost immediately,” Michelson said. “Mostly because what she was sharing is so raw and so unusual in...that someone would share this story knowing that there would be consequences. If they didn’t relate to her, they cared about her, which is also a really unique phenomenon to have happen.”

Michelson said that Zirlott was inspired by another story published on HuffPost last week by Jennifer Gorman, who had a late-term abortion in 2015. He added that he hopes these stories will affect the opinions of readers, and legislators, during this alarming time for reproductive rights.

Sharing personal stories is crucial, but so is keeping an eye on and fighting against restrictive legislation. Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show and founder of reproductive rights whistleblowing organization Lady Parts Justice, is one such leader in the fight.

“All of us should understand that Trump is stacking the courts of appeals and the federal courts with people who are going to interpret the law very differently, and it is emboldening state legislatures to pass unconstitutional laws in a way to get to Roe v. Wade,” Winstead told the Women’s Media Center.

Winstead also pointed out that the Supreme Court already set a precedent for the Louisiana case in 2016. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court found abortion restrictions proposed in Texas put an “undue burden” on women’s constitutional right to get an abortion. The fact that John Roberts, a usually conservative justice, sided with the progressive majority on the recent Louisiana decision, therefore, “shouldn’t be a jumping up and down point for activists,” Winstead said, but “should be a bit of a pause to say, ‘This is settled law.’”

Winstead added that she thinks lawmakers need to listen to stories like Zirlott’s, instead of acting as if people get late-term abortions on a whim.

“On an even practical level, an abortion later in pregnancy costs $15 to $25,000, so if you think someone frivolously has $25,000 to throw down because they decided at the last minute they don’t want to be pregnant at nine months, then you’re just being disingenuous, you’re being dishonest; you don’t really want to hear conversations, and there’s so much bloviating on television,” she said. “I have yet to hear any of these bloviators talk to a physician or people who have been faced with this circumstance. Not a one.”

Zirlott, who is now a married mother of three healthy girls, said as much in her piece. She pleaded for those “bloviators,” as Winstead calls them, to see her story as human.

“I speak for that 17-year-old girl bent across a kitchen counter. I speak for the strange woman I have become. And I speak to all of the women like me, the ones who came before, and after, who have been or will be in the same position—or perhaps your story is completely different and powerful in its own right.”

More articles by Category: Feminism, Politics
More articles by Tag: Abortion, Law, Rape, Reproductive rights, Supreme Court



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