Meredith M. Reed: Abortion is a personal decision for a woman

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Salt Lake City on Tuesday May 21, 2019 was part of a nationwide series of protests to bring attention as a number of conservative states pass laws aimed at getting abortion before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Utah Senate Health and Human Services Committee considered Senate Bill 174, Abortion Prohibition Amendment, proposed by state Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton.

As a woman who has accessed abortion care, this issue is deeply important to me, and I rearranged my schedule so that I could attend and provide my testimony during the public comments. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to speak, despite my name being near the top of the list because Sen. Ron Winterton took the unusual approach of “randomly” choosing which speakers could provide testimony.

While there were compelling arguments against the bill made by health care providers, not one single woman who had personally experienced abortion had the opportunity to speak.

The bill passed out of committee on a party line vote. The two senators who opposed the bill happen to be the only women on the committee. For the benefit of the larger Senate who will now vote on this bill, I would like to share what I had planned to say.

I am a mother of four beautiful children, a former Air Force chaplain, the wife of an active duty Army officer, a business owner and a community leader. In late summer of 2009, my husband and I were newlyweds and the Army had just moved us to Utah for his next assignment. To our utter delight we found out that we were expecting our first child.

At the first ultrasound appointment, our joy quickly turned to heartbreak when we discovered that there was a serious developmental abnormality with the fetus. After several weeks of tests, tears and prayers, we had to accept that the most loving and humane choice we could make was to terminate the pregnancy. We said goodbye to our much-wanted child.

This was a deeply personal decision made in consultation with my doctor, and unequivocally not one that should be made by politicians. A study published by the American Public Health Association in 2017 stated that one in four American women would have an abortion before the age of 45. I am one of those women. Let me assure you that you know other women who have had an abortion, too, whether or not they have disclosed that information with you.

With abortion access in Utah at risk it is important to be public about my experience, to speak one of the the truth’s of my life, and to be known as a woman who has had an abortion. I want to help break down the stigma that surrounds this part of women’s health care.

Every pregnancy and woman’s circumstances are different. There are no good abortions or bad abortions. Lawmakers need to respect the autonomy of women who are caring for their families and themselves.

I am proud to share my story to help defend abortion rights, and help our lawmakers understand that all women have a fundamental right to live by their own values and make decisions for themselves.

This abortion ban is an obstruction to personal health care decisions and would have devastating effects for Utah women. I ask the Utah Senate to vote no on SB174, and stop promoting policies that interfere with private health decisions that should be left to a patient, doctor and family.

Meredith Reed

Meredith M. Reed, Park City, is the chair of Summit County Democrats, an Air Force veteran, realtor, mother to four school-aged children and graduate student at the University of San Fransisco Masters in Public Leadership Program.