The Dead Son in My Womb Had More Rights Than I Did

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The Dead Son in My Womb Had More Rights Than I Did

Erica Diaz

In Letters to My Abortion, Rewire News Group elevates the voices that matter most: people who've had abortions.

Check out our other letters to abortion here.

My son’s name was Giovanni. He had onesies, diapers, a nursery, and stuffies all waiting for him. His sisters drew pictures to decorate his room and sang songs to my belly. His father kissed us all goodbye every time he left.

We were the ideal family: 2.5 children, four dogs, and a modest home that featured build-it-yourself furniture. Gio was loved. Everything was perfect.

I was literally singing and smiling as I walked into the bathroom that morning. We had just seen Daddy off to work, the kids and I were prepping to bake a cake, the windows were open, the playlist was fuego.

Perfect.

Perfect went out the window when I saw the blood. Hours later, doctors confirmed what we already knew.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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Our son was gone.

They were so sorry. It was nothing I had done. They told us we could take a few moments to ourselves and someone would come back to address any questions we had.

Those few moments would become the only time I was able to grieve for my son disconnected from the political process. The politics of abortion didn’t apply to us—or so we thought. We were about to learn exactly how much abortion laws apply to wanted pregnancies.

The doctors told us I would need help “passing the products of conception”—medical speak for my son’s body—since I was so far along, but that they could not help me there. I needed an abortion and that was, essentially, against the law.

Yes, the hospital had a labor and delivery department.

Yes, there were doctors available who knew what I needed and how to do it.

Yes, the medical professionals and I agreed on what the best course of action was for my health.

But no, they could not help.

The word “abortion” means the premature exit of the products of conception—why or how they exit makes no difference. It’s an abortion in the eyes of medicine and the law.

My son had died, and I needed help to remove his body before it made me sick. A medical professional had to look me in the eye and explain that they could not do their job because policymakers said no; because that job was to provide an abortion.

There’s never a good time for your child to die, but this was an added layer of complication I wasn’t ready for. Hospital staff laid out my options:

I could find an OB-GYN to take me as a new patient, confirm my son was dead, and then schedule the procedure to remove his body. Or I could go home and wait for his decay to make me sick enough to require emergency intervention, and then I could come back. (Since I had no fever or signs of sepsis, I was not considered an emergency case.)

The doctors couldn’t just wheel me to another room to have the medical procedure that I needed because my son’s corpse had more say over my body than I did. I couldn’t just schedule the procedure for a later point with whichever doctor was available. There was red tape I needed to cut through.

We were naive and ill-prepared for what we would be up against. We truly thought it would be easy.

Doctors help—and I needed heartbreaking help. My condition was dangerous—physically, psychologically, and emotionally. We believed that any OB-GYN who took our insurance would tell us to come right in.

How could it not be easy? Who wouldn’t want to help us?

We were not ready for what happened next.

The first place I called hung up on me. Another place turned us away and locked the office doors behind us. More than one person called me a monster who would go to hell for wanting an abortion so late.

I didn’t want an abortion. I wanted my son, but he was gone. I needed an abortion.

None of what happened to me was necessary. There were so many points where compassionate—or even just medically accurate—policies would have changed everything.

None of what happened to me was necessary. There were so many points where compassionate—or even just medically accurate—policies would have changed everything.

I wanted to live and be a mother to my other kids. I wanted to grieve for my baby. I wanted to cry in my partner’s arms over all of the dreams that stopped along with our son’s heartbeat. I wanted to hold my babies while they mourned the baby brother they were so excited for.

I didn’t ask or expect to be stuck in the splash zone of “the abortion issue.” Giovanni wasn’t supposed to be an abortion.

But I was stuck. I was repeatedly denied medical care that I needed for my own health. My son’s body had a right to rot inside of me. My right to be alive and healthy didn’t matter. My right to my body didn’t matter. My living children’s right to have a mother didn’t matter.

I wish I could tell you we found a loving and compassionate provider, but we didn’t.

It took a long time to find help, and when we finally found someone willing to talk to us, they wouldn’t perform an abortion. I was forced to labor and deliver my son vaginally because “it’s policy.”

They didn’t care that none of my previous children had been vaginal deliveries. They ignored my medical history. I labored without pain management.

There are some things even abortion storytellers won’t share readily; the finer details of our medical abuse and humiliation are mine. I’ll just say that I honestly don’t know how long labor went. However long it was, I was in pain the entire time due to a misplaced epidural. When I complained, they called me a liar who demonstrated drug-seeking behavior.

Pain and fever have a way of pulling at your mind like taffy. Hours passed in screams and sobs.

I was able to push his little body out, but the placenta would not budge, no matter how many contraction-inducing meds or “manual attempts” they tried.

Well after my son had died and we had endured harassment, embarrassment, shaming, psychological trauma, unspeakable heartbreak, and hours spent in painful and medically traumatic vaginal labor, I found myself walking (yes, walking: turns out I wasn’t drug-seeking—the epidural truly had no affect) into an operating room to get the medical procedure that the initial team of doctors wanted to do in the first damn place.

I had been forced to wait so long that the surgery was more difficult and dangerous than it ever needed to be. “Extra efforts” needed to be taken to bring me back, but I have no idea what those “efforts” were or how “extra” things got.

None of what happened to me was necessary. There were so many points where compassionate—or even just medically accurate—policies would have changed everything.

Medical professionals knew what needed to be done. I consented. This story should have ended there; I should have been able to get an abortion, and we should have been able to grieve the death of our baby. But policy and legislation said no because my son’s dead body had “rights.”

Those policies didn’t honor him or protect his body. They did the exact opposite by delaying his removal to the point that his body was no longer “salvageable.”

Salvageable.

I asked if anything could be donated, if any use or good could come from his passing, and a doctor had to tell me that he had been dead far too long, decomposition had already set in, and nothing would be salvageable.

My son’s body wasn’t “salvageable,” but I was still forced to carry it around inside of me and then vaginally deliver it in order to protect its rights.

Someone’s political agenda forced doctors to look at me and say, “We want to help you, but our hands are tied.”

Conversations around abortion have been weaponized so much that we don’t even stop to think about what abortion really is. It’s just health care.

I almost died because I was denied access to the safe and healthy abortion of my already-dead son. In the United States. In 2018.

Why? How? Was this ever going to stop happening?

We made our way through a sea of police as we left the hospital. Far-right pipe bomb terrorist Cesar Sayoc was being arrested 1.3 miles down the street.

Giovanni Fazio was disposed of as medical waste.

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