By Rep Tracey Bernett
As the overnight debate on the Reproductive Health Equity Act in the Colorado House continued
into the wee hours of the morning, I struggled with whether to tell my own story about why I
support abortion rights. But I did. Because everyone has one. And the stigma and judgment
around our reproductive lives are why we are afraid to tell them.
So here’s my abortion rights story: I had a miscarriage. IVF treatments. And a challenging high
risk pregnancy where I had to choose whether to remain pregnant or not. I chose to remain
pregnant. But another person might have made a different decision. And all of us should have
that right without fear of politicians making those decisions for us.
My journey to become the mother of two children I love very much was a difficult one, but not
uncommon. It started with a miscarriage ten weeks into my first confirmed pregnancy. As many
who have experienced pregnancy loss can attest to, it is a devastating experience. The pain,
the grief, the anguish. The guilt. The fear of judgment.
But I was fortunate, because in Colorado I did not have to worry about being accused of or
being investigated for possibly willfully ending my pregnancy. I was also comforted to learn that
doctors expect that nearly 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. I was able to grieve and
pray in private, along with my husband and parents.
And then after another year of minor infertility treatments, I had a daughter. Several years later,
my husband and I started trying again. More hurtful comments. “So, you have one
daughter….and does she have any siblings? Real meaning: “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you
want another child?” Or what someone told me: “I just have to look at my husband and I get
More years went by. More doctor visits. Infertility support group meetings. More procedures,
more decisions. How far do we go to try for another child? What is it going to cost?
Then multiple IVF procedures, with even more decisions about how many fertilized eggs to
implant, what to do with the viable ones that aren’t implanted, and what to do with the unviable
ones. But we were fortunate, because those decisions were made by my husband and me, in
private and in consultation with my doctor.
And finally, on the very last try, I became pregnant! Since I was an older patient, my doctor
discussed screening the fetus for abnormalities. I was relieved to learn that everything looked
normal, but I was also grateful that if there had been issues, it was my decision alone as to
whether I would continue the pregnancy.
Other than being couch-bound for much of the time, my pregnancy proceeded uneventfully.
Then sometime early in my third trimester, I experienced symptoms indicating that my life could
be in danger. Thankfully, the symptoms passed after about 12 hours.
During those 12 hours, I faced the possibility of making a decision between my life or the life
growing inside me. Do I risk carrying to term and possibly leaving my daughter motherless and
my husband raising her as a single parent? But I was comforted by one thing: that decision was
mine and mine alone to make.
Several months later, our healthy son was born. Of all my life experiences and
accomplishments, the most important and joyful job I’ve ever had is being a mother.
But until that day on the House floor, I had never told anyone about that pregnancy scare,
including my son.
As soon as the debate ended, I called him to tell him what I had just revealed to the entire world.
I needn’t have worried, as his response was so in keeping with his personality: “Oh Mom. You
didn’t have to worry about me or how I’d feel. Of course it was your choice to make, not some
politicians or a judge. I completely support you.” And so did my husband and daughter.
Trying to get pregnant, pregnancy, and childbirth are complicated. The health risks for both the
mother and fetus are real. Health decisions are made every step of the way.
And those decisions should only be made by the woman, in consultation with the people and
medical professionals she chooses to make them with.
This is why I support abortion rights and the Reproductive Health Equity Act.