Autonomy can make for hard decisions

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide on a women’s right to a medical abortion in June, 2022. This essay is a reflection on the pregnancies I have been a part of. One was expected, two were not. Trigger warning: This essay describes real situations, considerations, and consequences. It may not be suitable for all readers.

The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.

In this post:


Story: Autonomy can make for hard decisions

When Helen and I got married I was not fully committed to having children. We had discussed how we wanted our life together to unfold and children were not the first thing on the list. When Helen shared that her self-diagnosis of an angry gallbladder might be an indicator of an unintended pregnancy, we were both a bit surprised. We planned to have children as part of our marriage, just not right now.

The marriage vows we made include the statement, “Encompassing all joys and sorrows, all good times and bad, all of the experiences of life.” I soon accepted the idea of parenthood, and we were off to the races. My employer’s family friendly policies allowed me to attend Helen’s prenatal visits. The obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) Helen had been going to was an old-school doctor. His waiting room was often filled. We regularly waited a long time before being seen, followed by a rushed visit with the doctor. We ended up finding a different OB/GYN, one who was communicative and open to my involvement.

I took family leave when Jessica Renee Lococo came into this world on April 9, 1990. The family leave was especially helpful as Helen’s doctor advised her to refrain from lifting more than 10 pounds after delivering a 10-pound nine-ounce baby. Full disclosure: I clearly remember asking our three-week-old daughter, “When are your parents coming to take you home?” Ten months of marriage had not fully prepared us for this dramatic change in our lives. Seventeen months later Rachel Michelle Lococo came into the world, and we followed a similar pattern of prenatal preparation and post-delivery family leave. I do not regret that we became pregnant so early in our marriage. We have raised two lovely children who are now lovely adults.

In a previous relationship things turned out quite differently. Years earlier, I was romantically involved with a woman who had two children and a dissolving marriage. Our relationship made for more complication in her life. Like my later relationship with Helen, we found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant. Unlike my relationship with Helen, we had not talked about having children together. The complexity of her life and the simplicity of my life were not conducive to bringing a child into the world. We thoughtfully made the decision that carrying the pregnancy to its full term was not a wise decision. Like the pregnancies Helen and I participated in, we walked together to the termination of that pregnancy: in this case through a medical abortion. It was not an easy decision, but it was the best decision I believe we could have made at the time.

It has been decades since that relationship ended. The relationship, like the terminated pregnancy that was a part of it, were not meant to be. I do not spend a great deal of time pondering why the relationship was not viable. It may have been God’s will. It may have been the luck of the draw. Nothing that I have experienced has led me to the conclusion that the world would be a better place if circumstances had played out differently. I can only conclude that if things were different things would be different.

Reflecting back, the original OB/GYN Helen had been seeing told us to see a genetic counselor, due to our ages and the fact that I have a hereditary eye disease. The counselor didn’t have much to tell us that we did not already know. A point of contention during the appointment was our resistance to the counselor’s recommendation to perform an Amniocentesis diagnostic screening. She stressed that we would want to know about potential birth defects, such as Down syndrome. It was clear that we were being walked down the path to abortion counselling. The counselor did not appear to be satisfied to learn that we were not considering having an abortion, so the information was not useful to us. We declined the amniocentesis. This was the point where we decided to find another OB/GYN.

I have been a part of two unexpected pregnancies in my life. In both cases, we had the autonomy to make important decisions by and for ourselves. Having autonomy is one of the markers of privilege. As we anticipate the removal of women’s health care decisions as a Constitutional right, A better descriptor seems to be that we were fortunate to have the privilege of autonomy. For those with privilege, basing women’s rights on local politics will have no impact on their health care decisions. Autonomy is a privilege shared among those who are fortunate to have it. As for the rest? That, apparently, will be just too bad.

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