Dear Representatives,

Today is an important day. It may not be an important day to you, but it is for me. Because today my first child is 6 months old. This is especially important because she almost didn’t make it to this day. My daughter was born 11 weeks early and delivered emergently. She entered the world in the 4th percentile and was a whopping 2lbs 5oz. I wasn’t able to hold or touch her for the first 5 days of her life and her difficult entrance into the world was only an uphill battle from there. She spent 60 days in the NICU, where she fought to live and grow. When she graduated and was finally discharged home in December 2023, it was truly a holiday miracle. 

The reason she had such a volatile start to life was due to my very rare and serious diagnosis. After managing months of a difficult pregnancy, I suddenly discovered why I was so sick. After going in for a routine checkup, my provider revealed that my baby was failing to thrive in my uterus and that I myself was also dying. My organs were shutting down, my lungs were filled with fluid, my blood levels were off the charts. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia with severe features.

Not only did my daughter nearly die due to my condition, I nearly did too. In essence, my body was rejecting the pregnancy: my placenta was attacking the baby and my body due to the presence of foreign DNA (aka my husband’s sperm). This diagnosis is uncommon, but it’s even more uncommon to occur at 29 weeks. I was one of the most severe cases the hospital had ever dealt with and it was truly miraculous that we both survived; I have an amazing medical team to thank for it. 

But now we’ve made it. She’s been home for 4 months and is finally thriving. I too have made a full recovery and am also thriving (or at least, thriving as much as any new, sleep-deprived parent can). Yet even though we’ve made it through the worst part, I still can’t help but feel afraid. Because now I’m faced with a new dilemma: the reproductive rights my daughter and I will both be oppressed under in the state of Idaho. 

Because here’s the thing… a thing that’s quite frankly none of your business, but here we are: I literally cannot physically afford to have another child. My life literally depends on terminating a pregnancy if it ever (god forbid) happens again. The likelihood of me once again developing the same condition is 2-3x higher… and I barely made it out the first time.  While some people might take this risk anyway to pursue having more children, I will not. And that is absolutely my choice. I am doing everything I can to prevent another pregnancy and while those details are also not your business, I have to face the question: What If?

What if my birth control fails? What if I end up with an ectopic pregnancy? What if a healthcare provider refuses to give me the birth control I need (because yes, there are those who also want to deny that access). What if I’m forced to carry another baby and die in the process, leaving behind my family and the daughter I fought so hard to keep alive? What if?

I am terrified of those questions and possibilities. Because I have already risked it all and nearly lost it all… and I’m not going to go through that again. I have been through hell, and if you want to put me through that again, shame on you. That is not pro-life and it is not protecting babies, no matter what you tell yourself. 

Ultimately I shouldn’t have to explain any or all of this to you, a policy maker that I’ve never met and likely never will. I shouldn’t have to explain this to the state of Idaho. I shouldn’t have to explain this to a courtroom. I shouldn’t have to explain it to my neighbors. I shouldn’t have to explain it to my friends. I shouldn’t have to explain it to my inlaws. I don’t owe anyone an explantation for why I would make this choice, because it is mine and mine alone.

I’m not ashamed that my body is not conducive to pregnancy. I’m not ashamed that I would choose my living daughter over a non-viable fetus and pregnancy. I am not ashamed of my reproductive plan and the sex I have with my husband. I am proud. I am a proud mother, wife, and woman. And I will fight for my bodily autonomy and stand proudly against those that would like to say otherwise.

Abortion is part of my medical plan, it is my healthcare. And since you’ve stripped me of my rights, you might one day also strip me of my life. 

Thoughts and prayers,

Summer Ward

***This is the letter I wrote to my Idaho representatives today. I want all people and parties to know that abortion access is crucial healthcare. Idaho needs access and we need to codify abortion and to protect it federally.

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