Jane was born and raised in a conservative Catholic family in a conservative Midwestern suburb.
Growing up, her working-class parents scrimped to put her and her siblings through private Catholic schools. Jane attended Masses for the unborn, prayed at vigils to end abortion and raised money for pro-life groups. She believed fervently in the messages she was taught.
She was working part-time at a pizza place as a senior in high school when she discovered she was pregnant. Her then-boyfriend disappeared; her mother told her to have the baby, then let a wealthy relative raise the child.
Instead, Jane chose to raise her daughter -- now 17 -- herself.
Jane, now 35, recently wrote about her pregnancy and childbirth experience in a private Facebook group, saying that it had converted her from a “pro-life” Catholic Republican to a pro-choice Democrat. She gave me permission to share a version of that post, along with some clarification she offered during an interview, using her middle name for privacy.
“When I was 17 and pregnant with my daughter, my dad’s insurance did not cover maternity care for a dependent. The state of Missouri considered me legally emancipated because I was pregnant, so I could not get state coverage. I didn’t qualify for Medicaid because my parents ‘made too much’ as a beautician and a union laborer.
“We could not find a single facility to take me in (Missouri’s) St. Charles County. I even walked into Catholic Charities in my school uniform, with my pregnant belly hanging over my plaid skirt, and said to the receptionist, ‘I am pregnant. I don’t have insurance and my parents’ insurance won’t cover me, and I need help.’
“The receptionist looked at me and said: ‘We don’t do that type of charity here.’
“Then, a family friend who was a nun and worked in a hospital system was able to help us get a cash deal for care at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles. Thank God for that nun; I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.
“My parents had to pay in cash before every checkup, screening, ultrasound, etc. When it came time for delivery, there wasn’t much cash left.
“The cheapest option was forced on me: vaginal birth, no pain medication, no epidural. I went into labor the day before my 18th birthday.
“Needless to say, childbirth was far too much for me to handle. I was hyperventilating, panicking, begging for it to be over. And that was my first hour. Although I was legally emancipated, the hospital would not let me make my own medical decisions until midnight when I turned 18. When my mom left the room for a few minutes, a nurse rushed me epidural consent forms to sign before she came back.
“It was another 15 hours before I started pushing, and the epidural had worn off. I tore in four places (third-degree lacerations, I was told). Because I didn’t have the money for any more medication, I was sutured without any numbing. Can you imagine? Eighteen years and 16 hours old, pushing out a baby -- tearing and stitching, with full feeling and no medication, in the most sensitive area of your body?
“After I went home from the hospital, I was still uninsured since I was now 18 and not enrolled in full-time school anymore. (I had graduated four months earlier.) I could not see a doctor for follow-up care. A week after giving birth, I returned to working full-time. I got mastitis two weeks postpartum that stopped my milk production and caused excruciating pain. My stitches got so infected, I used a mirror and tweezers to take them out myself and treated it with alcohol.
“Was I in a developing country? Was this the time when America was great? Nope.
“This was all in Missouri in 2003 before the Affordable Care Act.
“If the ACA is repealed, your daughter could suffer the same way.
“This is barbaric.
“To be pro-life is to demand universal healthcare coverage for all.
“To be pro-life is to demand maternity coverage.
“To be pro-life is to demand coverage for dependents to age 26.
“To be pro-life is to demand coverage for preexisting conditions.
“To be pro-life is to demand unrestricted access to birth control.
“All the above is covered by law in the ACA, passed in 2010.
“Guess who wants to repeal it with no real plan in place?”
I’ll answer Jane’s question: the people who call themselves “pro-life.”