Breaking news: the house bill referenced in the article below was canned in committee shortly after publication. It failed by a vote of 5/3 which mean that the bill will not proceed this legislative session. Congratulations Wyoming!
Today, Wyoming legislators will consider whether they should change the state law on abortions from allowing them until the fetus is viable at about twenty-three weeks gestation to only allowing them until the fetus has a heartbeat, which occurs between six and eight weeks gestation. There are no provisions for exceptions in the case of rape, or incest or for the health of the mother. This law would effectively ban abortion in Wyoming. As a women’s rights advocate, I simply cannot allow this bill to pass through my legislature without doing everything I can to explain why this bill must never become law.
I am sick. I am six hundred miles away from my Capitol city, Cheyenne, Wyoming, because I am seeking specialized medical care while staying with family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since I cannot physically be present to object to the bill, my friends and colleges have agreed to read a statement I have prepared in today’s hearing. In an effort to help further this difficult discussion, I offer my story to the masses on the Internet. Hopefully, in some small way, my experience helps somebody else. Hopefully, by reading and sharing my story, you the reader will have a better understanding of why abortion is a right that must be preserved, and maybe, just maybe, there is a young rape victim out there who will see this. Maybe she will learn that the shame she feels does not belong on her shoulders. Maybe, she will feel that she is loved, and valued, and important. I like to hope that by sharing the stories of womanhood and struggle, we better our entire society by preserving rights that should be unalienable and keeping the shame of rape in its proper place – squarely on a rapist’s shoulders.
The following statement will be read aloud and entered into the formal record of the Wyoming State legislature around four pm this afternoon:
Esteemed Committee Members and Fellow Citizens,
I apologize that I cannot attend today’s opportunity to speak regarding this bill in person. I am out of town for medical treatment and couldn’t make it back in time. My name is Sarah Zacharias. I am a fifth generation Wyomingite. I live in Wyoming with my husband and two sons. I am the state director of UniteWomen.org, and it is my duty to speak for the women of Wyoming regarding this bill, known as the fetal heartbeat bill.
Before I continue, I must admit that this is difficult to submit to public record. Many who love me dearly don’t even know this happened, but I share my experience in hope that it forwards the discussion is matter.
When I was seventeen, I was raped by my boyfriend. He beat me for asking him to wear protection and then, in a fit of anger and a show of power, (and in spite of my sobs and my tears, and my blood) he forced himself on me.
I was young. I was confused. I had trouble with even thinking about talking about it. I grew up as a modest person. I cringe when my grandmother hangs my underwear on the clothes line miles from a public road. My father and my mother, were protective and loving and almost prudish in their expectations of my chastity. After my rape, all I could feel, was shame. All I could think of, was sparing my family my trauma of telling them how I had been dirtied.
I only told a women’s shelter advocate what happened to me after a few days, and only because I did not know where else to go with the panic and anxiety that I had bursting from me. I did not have a chance for a morning after pill because I was scared and I waited too long to talk to someone.
A woman at the clinic tried, to no avail, to get me to call the police. She helped me to end my relationship with the person who hurt me by helping me write a prepared script that I read aloud to his voice mail. She taught me to change my patterns, and how to avoid him so he couldn’t hurt me again.
Even though I knew it could happen, I refused to believe that I was pregnant until I first started to feel sick about 7 weeks later. On the 8th week I was no longer in the realm of my normal ability to be in denial, I was too late.
I had to go to a women’s clinic for a test. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I was a good girl. I was an honor student. I carried a full course load of classes as a high school senior and a full course load of classes as a high school freshman while swimming varsity for the high school team too. I was throwing up between classes, in the locker room at gym, at swim team practice, and even on the city bus that took me home. I remember that when the girl at the local women’s clinic returned with my pregnancy test and it’s hot pink positive sign, my cheeks burned and ached with shame.
It has taken me a long, long time to recognize that this shame belonged to my rapist, and not me.
I immediately applied for a non governmental grant to pay for my abortion. I scheduled my procedure the day that I had funding, the first day that I possibly could. I had my termination on second day of the 11th week of my pregnancy. The fetus would have been about an inch and a half long at that time, about the size of a small fig. It would not have been possible to know its gender or hope for viability for another ten to twelve weeks of gestation.
It is important to recognize that by shortening the time a woman has to seek a termination from around 20 weeks to only 6 weeks we effectively eliminate a woman’s right to choose an abortion. This right is then gone, not just for the mythological women that some imagine who abuse abortion, but also for the young rape victim with a bright future.
The constitution’s fourteenth amendment guarantees all citizens the right to privacy including a woman’s right to medical decisions regarding her body. it is important that our state protects all of our constitutional rights. The 14th amendment, like the 2nd, is one that requires that we trust citizens to their own rights.
I trust the women of Wyoming. I trust them with the family shotgun when an intruder comes into their home and threatens their property and the lives of their children. I trust them with the family doctor when it comes time to make decisions about their own body also. I trust them with a high-caliber of tough decisions because Wyoming women are worthy of their God-given and constitutionally protected rights.
I am certain that we can agree that Wyoming Women are reliable, trustworthy, moral, and deserving of the right to choose when, how and with whom they enter parenthood.
A rapist should not be free to take that right from any woman. Not even one who doesn’t realize she is pregnant till she is seven or eight weeks along. My rapist took a lot of things from me on the day that he pinned me down and stole my trust and chastity, when he hurt me in the most invasive of ways, but I think we all know that he did not take my right to choose to be a mother.
There is a high cost to motherhood. For me it was the loss of tooth enamel and gastro intestinal erosion from months of morning sickness. It was post partum depression and fatigue and the loss of individuality. It was gestational diabetes and bed rest and preterm labor and pain and blood and sweat and tears.
I gave these things to my two beautiful sons with love and passion and fear and commitment. I gave without counting the cost.
Motherhood is a test of character, and it is the most difficult test I have ever faced. I am so grateful that, thanks to my abortion, I was able to take that test when I was ready, when I was willing, when I chose to take it and with my loving husband as the father to accompany me in this awesome journey.
Abortion is not fun or easy to talk about. Nobody likes to consider what they would or wouldn’t do in a terrible situation. That is not what is being asked today. What is being asked is that we recognize that our goal is to keep abortion safe, legal and rare. We must not substitute or prioritize rarity over safety. Making this valid medical procedure effectively illegal and inaccessible is wrong, it is also unconstitutional, and it threatens the health and safety of Wyoming women.
We must remember that choice, is a coin that has two sides and the vast majority of the time, Wyoming women choose the side that holds life and they are happy for it. This is how it should be. When women have the choice, it makes the sacrifice, the fight, the pain, and the effort all the more beautiful. Motherhood is not a contract that should be entered into lightly. It is not a convent that we ought to force women to join. It is a blessing, a gift, and an opportunity that is better when embraced wholeheartedly by a ready heart and prepared mind.
I protect the coin of choice, and I protect both sides, because I believe that women can be trusted with it. So does our constitution. So does the supreme court. So do the majority of Wyomingites polled recently by UW’s student newspaper, The Branding Iron.
Like my fellow citizens, I cannot imagine that by limiting abortion to a nearly impossible to meet deadline we help Wyoming at all. Eliminating safe and legal abortion takes away the opportunity to ensure that every child is loved, and planned and wanted. It takes away a woman’s chance to plan. It forces panic and hurry on a situation that is not served by rushing.
Wyoming women are fighters. We believe in our constitution, and our rights, and as members of the equality state we know that we lead the way in showing that the American Cowgirl and her rights are indeed unalienable. I hope that I have clearly and unequivocally stated that Wyoming women will not give up their rights and explained why you should not ask us to.
If I have failed, I can be contacted at the email listed below my name.
I am happy to help resolve this matter in any way I can, so please do not hesitate to ask.
Thank you and sincerely,
Wife, mother, sister, daughter, citizen,
State Director at UniteWomen.org, and
Founder of Www.bucking-Jenny.com