EPISODE TWENTY: KATE DINEEN, A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE
Kate Dineen is a mother, lobbyist and advocate for a woman's right to choose. While Kate has made a career of advocating for others, the political became personal for Kate when she was expecting her second child with her husband. Kate received a devastating diagnosis for her unborn child and what followed was a harrowing journey of navigating both the medical and legal systems, while processing a heartbreaking loss. Kate shares her story with the hope of connecting with other women and families who have faced similar circumstances and ultimately hopes to help change laws, not just in her home state but across the country.
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Alison Hall, Kate Dineen
You're listening to between headlines. I'm Alison Hall. Hello, and welcome back to between headlines, I realized that I took a pretty significant break between Episode 19 and 20. And overall, the last few episodes have been pretty spread out to say the least. In the last year, I was working two jobs, I had a wedding, I had a wonderful honeymoon. And I have just been focused on a lot of things other than this podcast, even if only a couple of people listened to this podcast, or if 1000s listen to this podcast. This is a labor of love. This comes from my heart, and it's a one woman show. So it's, it's all me. And over the last several months, with all that other stuff going on. It's pretty easy for me to make up excuses as to why I don't have time to work on the podcast. But working on the podcast doesn't feel like work because I get to talk to some of the most incredible people that I've ever met. And I'm always just filled with gratitude, that I get to focus on being purposeful, and intentional in learning and challenging my own views, and understanding these really big issues in a whole new, often deeply personal way. So that is all to say, I hope I'll be joining you a lot more frequently in the coming months and I hope you'll stick with me. For this week's episode of between headlines I spoke with Kate Dineen. Kate is a mother and an advocate. When Kate learned she was pregnant with her second child, she was over the moon, her first son was becoming a toddler, and she couldn't be more excited about giving him a brother. All was smooth sailing, until Kate and her doctors detected something very, very wrong. At 33 weeks. Kate and her husband received a unfathomable and incurable diagnosis for their unborn child. And they were faced with a grave decision. And as you'll hear from Kate, her, and her husband knew what the right decision was for them, but they had no idea how hard it would be to access the medical care required. See, Kate lives in Massachusetts, a liberal state that she thought gave women access to women's health and maternal and prenatal care in all forms. And as you'll hear from Kate, it was a lot more complicated than that, when followed was a harrowing and tremendously difficult journey for Kate and her family through her grief and pain and frustration with the medical system and the laws and the feeling that she was just not able to access the compassionate medical care from her state that she needed. Kate went on to share her story to help others ultimately changing the laws and continuing her advocacy for women's right to choose, not just in Massachusetts, but across the board. Because as we all know, a woman's right to choose is currently up for debate. Since late June, when Roe v Wade was overturned. countless stories have been shared about the consequences of this ruling, and what it means for girls and women and families across the country. Kate and I talk about all of that. The issue can be pretty nuanced. But as Kate tells you, if you believe in one thing, that a woman has the right to choose her own medical and life's destiny. It's actually pretty simple. I'm really grateful for people like Kate who can speak so openly about something so challenging and filled with personal grief. And let's face it, it comes with a lot of opinions and political views, especially now. So to have people like Kate speak about their experience and actually go and make changes. It's incredible. Kate is brave, compassionate, strong and wonderful. And I'm excited for you to get to know her as I did. It's easy to feel overwhelmed with the headlines and the horror stories and the what ifs and the How about this. But Kate and her story helped me slow down and clarify. And that's what this podcast is all about. Let's get to my conversation with Kate. Kate, thank you so much for are agreeing to be on between headlines. I know you've spoken about this very personal story a lot. But I just want to acknowledge how brave that is and how it can't be easy to bring up every single time that you have to. So I really appreciate you doing that here with me today.
thank you so much for having me, Allison. And, you know, it's obviously a deeply personal experience. But I appreciate the opportunity to share it with you and with your listeners, especially in light of kind of the broader political climate right now in the US. So I'm just grateful for the opportunity. So thank you.
So let's just dive right into it. Why don't you tell me about last summer 2021. And if you don't mind going back even a little bit further than that, when you first found out you were pregnant with your second? Oh, well,
thank you. It's, that's, that's so nice of you to ask, you know, like, I've actually never told that front part of the story, I always kind of tell the latter part of the story. So I have a now two and a half year old son almost three. And, you know, I, I actually kind of, you know, became a mother later in life, I was not really one of those people who knew at a young age that I really wanted to have a kid. And then I had a son, and I fell in love with him. And I said, Okay, I would like to try and have another, you know, it was kind of a transformative experience for me becoming a mother and I was really blown away by it. And you know, my husband, and I said, okay, like, let's let's do this. Let's try again. So when my son turned my son, Danny turned one, you know, we made the decision to try and and have another baby. And I was really fortunate to get pregnant quickly. And found out I was pregnant in the fall of 2020, during COVID, and was just really overjoyed and started to think about a new life as a mom of two. And I found out the sex very early, like, as soon as I could, I'm not somebody who can wait. And so I found out I was going to be the mom of two boys. And so I started, you know, building that life in my head, you know, thinking about, Oh my gosh, you know, my life has really been transformed by love, you know, I'm gonna be a mom of two boys. And how crazy is that? And how amazing is that? So everything was progressing really well. And my pregnancy. You know, when you're pregnant, you have all these kind of scary milestones, you know, the different testing and the ultrasounds and the ultrasound, you have around 20 weeks the anatomy scan is like a really big milestone. And so I had that anatomy scan and everything was great. You know, in fact, the doctor said to me, How does perfect sound, you know, like, perfect, sounds great. Like, it's exactly what we're going for. So things were progressing beautifully in my in my pregnancy. And I had a C section with my first son. So I had scheduled a C section for August. And I wasn't even scheduled to have another scan because there were no issues. But then I started having kind of like a, an abdominal pain that is apparently not related to anything that happened. But, you know, in me, I was like, okay, like this, this is kind of this didn't happen during my first pregnancy, like, I should go in and get this checked out. So I called my doctor and they said, Okay, why don't you come in for a scan. And I was really excited, because due to COVID restrictions, my husband hadn't come to any of the ultrasounds. So this would be the first time that my husband can actually see the baby, you know, on the screen. So he was able to come with me. And so we wanted the ultrasound, just like really excited to see the baby. And really, we were not expecting any diagnosis to come out of that gross scan. So I was around 32 weeks pregnant at the time. And the ultrasound tech was doing a scan, a very thorough scan, and then she kind of started to linger on the baby's brain. And we knew at that point, that something was something was wrong. And so during that scan, the doctors detected something called ventricular megali, which is basically like an enlargement of the ventricles in the brain. And oftentimes, it's nothing but it was something that the doctor recommended. We we look into more through a fetal MRI. So after the ultrasound, we had a fetal MRI, you know, we went into that, again, hopeful that this would be you know, nothing or something that's manageable. But unfortunately, that fetal MRI detected that my son had suffered a, what's called a grade four hemorrhagic stroke in utero. And so, you know, we were just completely blindsided by this really serious diagnosis so far along in what was an uneventful easy pregnancy. And that's when you know, everything, just everything changed.
It just I'm so sorry. First of all, that I can't even imagine how devastating that was. You're just weeks away. I imagine. I know it's C sections. Do you usually have those around 36 Seven weeks.
Yeah, I was scheduled to have a C section on August 17. And I had this scan on July 2. So we were getting, you know, really close and you know, doing things like taking stock of the baby clothes, right figuring out Okay, what else do we have to buy? And where are we going to put the crib and preparing to prepare? And obviously really, really excited? Yeah,
yeah. And I've told all of your family and friends and figuring out how you're going to handle it with your year older son. Yeah. Yeah, I'm so sorry. So when you learned that news? What did the doctor say? What did they say your options were? And what did they say? Really, the prognosis was,
so it was really strange, because again, because of COVID, I learned of the diagnosis, you know, via a virtual visit on my cell phone in my kitchen. So I'm in my kitchen, and my husband's there with our our son. And there was this really wonderful pediatric neurologist taking great care to walk me through, like the actual brain scans like he was sharing the images on his screen. So he was just like, incredibly thorough and professional and walking us through what what he saw and his colleagues saw on the brain scan. And the punchline was, you know, he had suffered a catastrophic stroke. And we were told that there was a 50% chance that he would die, and a 50% chance that he would survive for some amount of time, they weren't sure what that meant, is that like, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, you know, they have no way of really predicting that. But it was clear to us from what the neurologist said that if he did survive, his life would be one of pain and suffering. So in my mind, you know, he was given a prognosis that was either death, or what I would think of as a fate far worse than death. So as soon as the doctor painted that picture for us, I asked, okay, what are my options, and there was a nurse practitioner on the call the zoom as well. And she said, something I'll never forget, she said, you may still be able to explore termination if you're able to travel. So you know, I am a liberal, progressive person, in terms of you know, my political leanings, I have been kind of supportive of reproductive rights for my, you know, adult life, I kind of thought I understood the contours of the law in Massachusetts. And I'm standing there in my kitchen in Boston. And I'm being told by doctors at arguably one of the best hospitals in the country, if not the world Mass General Hospital, that they cannot provide me with a termination at the stage, and that I will have to leave the state of Massachusetts, if I want to pursue a termination. So I was really just shocked, because I didn't understand, you know, how can my doctors not provide me with this care here in Boston. And so that really poses a logistical challenge for me and my husband, but we made a very difficult decision rather quickly. And because we were both confident that it was the most compassionate loving choice for our son and for our family. And we mobilize very quickly to get to Maryland to see a doctor there who could perform the termination. So I was kind of blissfully ignorant, I thought I lived in this, you know, liberal blue state where we had kind of unfettered access to reproductive rights and abortion. And, you know, I was wrong. I was wrong. And were shocking to me in the moment, and really drove me to try and see what changes could be made to our state law to help people who may find themselves in situations similar to mine.
Yeah. And I mean, I think an argument can be made from some people who would go, Oh, so what, so you can just go to a different state? You know, you can go to that one, it's going to be available here. But not here. Just drive. But that's obviously just not the case. And we shouldn't be forced with that choice. Can you talk about even just the fact that you could afford to have that option, the resources to figure that out? How do you even figure that out?
So it was really wild. So you know, my, my individual doctors were great and supportive, and they essentially told me that their hands were tied, and that state law does not allow them to go far enough in cases like mine, so they referred me to a clinic in DC. And that clinic didn't have appointments till later in the week. And at this point, I was freaking out thinking I was gonna like go into premature labor. So I started doing research on my own and speaking to friends of mine, like in New York State who work in reproductive justice to say like to ask that same question like, are there other clinics who provide all trimester care later for Ignosi care. And I found this reputable clinic in Bethesda called the care clinic run by this really well regarded doctor named Dr. Carhart. And they were able to see me earlier. So I've just, you know, kind of harassed this clinic to see if they had earlier appointments, because, you know, I was just really concerned about the what ifs, like, what if I go into labor, what happens to me what happens to my baby, I wish grateful to be able to get an appointment. So, you know, step one was like, finding securing the appointment. Step two was finding childcare, taking time off work, getting in our car, which we're lucky to have, and, you know, buying the gas, and driving 500 miles one way down to Maryland, and paying upwards of $10,000 out of pocket for the procedure and travel costs, and then driving back 500 miles after this. So
during a very traumatic, stressful, emotional event, you're not at home, you're not with doctors, you know, you don't have your support. Yes.
And I had the wind at my back, right, I have an incredibly supportive husband, I have a flexible job, I have disposable income, I have family that lives nearby who could watch our our son, you know, like, we were able to pull this off logistically and financially, but so many people don't have that luxury. So every step of the way, both my husband and I just kept thinking, like, How could anyone do this, you know, who are faced with any obstacles, right, like, just the luxury of being able to take time off of your job without getting fired, or getting your own car and afford gas and drive 500 miles and stay in a hotel multiple nights, like, it was a huge hurdle and obviously very, like, it compounded the trauma of the experience of having to travel because from the beginning, I felt like a fugitive. You know, I felt like I was cast out of my own hospital system by my providers and cast out of my own state to seek care, even though I was doing nothing wrong. And this is all totally legal. But you know, the the system in place, the barriers in place, make you feel that way. And so we you know, again, just super grateful we have the resources to to get this care. And it's just really unfortunate that we had to seek this care out of state. So in terms of like the logistics at the clinic in Bethesda, I received an injection to stop my son's heart. And then we drove back. And I went through a 40 hour induction labor and delivery at my hospital at MGH. So it was like, again, a multi step process. And you know, when I reflect on the experience, thinking about that car ride, you know, driving down there, and then driving back is something that really sticks with me as as being a really difficult part of the experience. And I was grateful to be able to deliver close to home and with my hospital. So I'm not sure I would do it any other way. That was like the best of the worst options available to me. But you know, throughout the whole experience, both my husband, I just kept thinking like, how this is such an equity issue. And it's not as simple as just traveling and like nonchalantly traveling and getting care. And so that was in July 2021. Fast forward to present day, it is nearly impossible to get appointments at the handful of clinics in the country that provide later terminations. So depending upon how far you are, there's actually like these, you know, calculators abortion finder, and kind of enter, you know, how far along you are in your pregnancy and see which clinics might be available to you. And then you can call those clinics. So since then I've become aware of these resources that I wasn't aware of them. And I think, you know, the folks who run them are really beefing them up in light of you know, all of the threats around the country. But if you go on one of those finders, and you you know, I was 30 to 33 weeks along at this point. If you're that far in your pregnancy, there are three maybe four clinics in the entire country that are providing later abortions right now, the clinic I went to in Bethesda has stopped providing later abortion care, apparently due to staffing issue, then there's a clinic in Colorado that has been serving patients for years. They're just a wonderful, wonderful place. And then New Mexico also has a clinic depending upon how far along you are. And then I'm sorry, the DC clinic that I was initially referred to to when I say there's like only like a very small handful of clinics. And they're independent clinics. You know, these are not Planned Parenthood's which generally I think don't provide care past like 24 or 26 weeks at the outer most end. These are independent clinics. I think most if not all of them are nonprofit, and they like to their own fundraising. And so they're very, very vulnerable. And they are inundated with patients from across the country right now who are being cast out of more hostile states to try and seek care. So, you know, back in July of 2021, my primary concern was like, Oh my gosh, how can people logistically or financially afford to travel out of state? Now my concern is even worse, like how could people even get an appointment, and then afford to travel out of state? So it's just much, much more dire, obviously, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Right.
And I think people think that these later stage abortions, I mean, first of all, are rare. But also they speak about them in a very flippant way. And like, almost Oh, well, everybody can agree that that's not right. And not understand the circumstances and the gravity of that decision and how hard it is for the family members who I mean, your situation is the perfect example. Since you started talking about your experience. Have you spoken to other women and families who have been through similar things?
Well, yeah, thanks. And thank you for for framing it that way. You know, I think that later abortions are very rare. Like, if you look at the statistics, they're very rare. But as states start enacting bans, people are going to be pushed later and later into pregnancy. So So you live in a state that just enacted a very early an all out ban, or a very early ban, you may not find out, you're pregnant, until you're late in your first trimester, early on your second trimester, then you try and get the resources together to travel across the country to one of these clinics who might see you, boom, you know, you're past your past these gestational limits, so all of a sudden, you're later in pregnancy. So unfortunately, I think we're gonna see a lot of people who are pushed later in pregnancy, even though they may have decided much earlier in their pregnancy, that this is not a pregnancy that they wish to carry to term. In cases like mine. You know, I think in general, people ask, you know, why, why would anyone ever have an abortion? So, so late in pregnancy, a third trimester abortion, you know, I think people still use the term late term abortion, which just drives me bananas, because it's very politically charged. And, you know, there are a number of reasons why people would pursue a termination later in pregnancy, and they are all heartbreaking. You know, these are all very difficult decisions. So in my case, and you hear about cases like mine, you know, you are faced with a fetal diagnosis that could not have been detected earlier in pregnancy. In other cases, that might be a maternal diagnosis, a threat to the mother's health that did not become apparent until later in pregnancy. Or there are also very sad cases about people who just have really troubling life circumstances that may present later in pregnancy, whether it's an abusive partner, or the loss of a job or some really destabilizing life event. That also happens to so there are many reasons why people would pursue a termination later in pregnancy, and none of them are flippant, you know, it's not like somebody wakes up in their eighth month of pregnancy. And kind of non nonchalantly says, like, you know, I think I'll get an abortion tomorrow. Like, there's this, there's a myth out there that, you know, women and pregnant people pursue these life changing decisions in a casual way. And I think that is just so profoundly untrue and insulting. And since going through my my own experience and loss, I have connected with a number of women who've had very similar experiences from all across the country. There's this wonderful online resource and a Facebook group where people connect, you know, there's kind of different terms that are often applied to people who've gone through similar experiences like mine, one term that's used a lot is termination for medical reasons. So it's shortened to Te FMR. So there's like an online community of people who've terminated for medical reasons, or it's also kind of generally referred to as ending unwanted pregnancy. So I've connected with other people through those forums, you know, and for me, it's really important that I made a decision to terminate a deeply wanted pregnancy to protect my son from pain and suffering like that. That was my reason. But there are many reasons out there. And it's not on the government to insert themselves in, in that decision making process. So, you know, everybody, everybody's story is a little bit different.
Yeah, for sure. I think sometimes we can get lost in looking at what reason is valid. And when we look at the exemptions, oh, well, that exceptions valid, but that exemption is invalid. Whereas at the end of the day, the argument just comes down to who should be making these decisions? Yes.
100%. And I, you know, oftentimes, people say to me, like, oh, well, you know, your story is very sad. And you clearly wanted this pregnancy and this was the best decision you can make for your son and your family. So like, you're, you're an exception that, that that's okay. But that really misses the point. Right. The point is that it was my decision, right? It wasn't the state's decision. It was my decision, and someone else I presented the exact same information, the same diagnosis may have chosen another path. And that is wonderful. And I respect that. And that's their choice.
Absolutely. I want to get back a little bit to the timeline and just how that all was for you. Because I know that it all fuels, how you speak about it now and all the work that you've done. So you had that long, very painful car ride back to Boston. And imagine physically and emotionally. And then you had a 40 hour labor where you delivered your son who had already passed away, that must have been so hard, but you also got to meet him. I know, you took some pictures and then took some foot imprints told me about that.
Yeah, it was really emotionally and physically challenging. You know, with my first son, I was also induced, but it ended up C section. And then you know, obviously, this is just like a walking into the same hospital, the same like labor and delivery ward, like knowing I'm not going to leave with a living child. So from the beginning, it's just a very sorrowful experience. The nurses were like, incredible and really pulled us through, really the worst few days of our lives, and was a very long induction and delivery. But then I got to hold my son and we named him, Edward Lee, and we called him we call him Teddy. And we took pictures unhampered handprints and footprints, as you said, but really just got to spend time with him and say, you know, hello, and goodbye, and did give us as a family some peace, you know, I derive a lot of peace from knowing that he never suffered. And, you know, that was the whole driving force behind the decision that we made was, again, to protect him from pain and suffering. So it was an important, it was important for both me and my husband to have the opportunity to, to do that. And, you know, I've spoken to other women who've made different decisions, you know, they didn't necessarily want to see their baby or spend time with their baby. So it's a very personal really personal choice.
Yeah, absolutely. Wow, that must have been so hard and also really beautiful.
Yeah, yeah, there's like, you know, the strange kind of like, comparisons, just having had a child in the same hospital just like a year and a half before you certain things from the experience resonate with me now, like a little over a year afterwards. But walking out of the hospital, empty handed, you know, it was rainy, foggy day in Boston, is you're just hit with this feeling of profound loss, but also gratitude that you were able to make a choice that you felt good about, and to protect your baby from pain and suffering.
I imagine. I mean, I losing a child is just I know, it's going to be with you forever. At what point in your grief journey? Did you decide I want to talk about this?
Yeah, so it's funny, you know, I was thinking about this today, right after our loss. It's kind of this awkward thing. You know, we're like, what do we say to people, you know, people, new people new, rough that I was quite visibly pregnant. And I, you know, a lot of our friends and family knew about our, you know, our scheduled C section, you know, like, what do we say? So, in the beginning, you know, we only shared the details of our story with close friends and family. And, you know, just kind of told, more acquaintances that I had suffered a catastrophic fetal diagnosis and lost the pregnancy. And I got really good advice from one of my fellow lost moms on the internet, all these you know, my internet friends that I've connected with that you can always share more later, right? So I was like, okay, that's right. Like, I don't need to, you know, five days after this, my labor and delivery process, I don't need to be like sharing my whole story with the world. I was like, okay, I can kind of take my time. So that's what I did. And I thought it was really good advice. So I started kind of my advocacy work in the fall, so probably around September. So as I reflected upon my own experience, and kind of came out of the initial like fog, I was really focused on the Massachusetts State law. And how could this be because Massachusetts had recently passed what's called the roe act that improved or was designed to improve access to abortion throughout pregnancy, including after 24 weeks with in certain exceptions in certain cases. And so I think a lot of the general public who's kind of paying attention and lawmakers thought that the Massachusetts State law should have allowed me to get care in Massachusetts. So I started sharing my story with advocates and with lawmakers, you know, kind of confidentially, but like, you know, sharing sharing the full full story with them individually, just to let them know that this is what happened to me and my hospital is telling me it's because of the Massachusetts State law so You guys need to be aware of the fact that the law you recently passed is not, you know, being implemented in the way you had hoped may need to be changed. But you need to know that people are being sent out of the state of Massachusetts to seek abortion care. So I started that in like the late summer, early fall those conversations with advocates and legislators. And then when things started happening with the dogs decision, you know, the, the dogs league at the Supreme Court, I felt like I had to tell my story more broadly. And again, I had been like sharing it in a targeted manner with really like advocates and lawmakers, but I felt the need to try and share it with the broader public. And I had a great opportunity to speak with a columnist with The Boston Globe named Shirley Leung. And she told our story on the front page of the Sunday Boston Globe in May. So that was a real turning point for me in my advocacy work, because she just gave me this incredible platform, she amplified my voice in Boston, it's really hard to ignore the Boston Globe. What I, you know, started talking to people saying, like, I want to start speaking out, like, I want to try and make inroads with the globe. But I was very lucky to be able to make this connection with Shirley. But I wasn't, I didn't know I was going to run on the front page of the Sunday globe. And so her husband went out at like, 6am to get the paper and he's like, Well, go big or go home, I guess, I guess we're telling our story. And our pictures were on the cover. And it was just like, a beautiful piece that, you know, both Alex and I felt really good about and we're like, so thankful for for surely. But that was a real turning point for me, in my storytelling, but also in my advocacy, because people really started paying attention. And more, more lawmakers started returning my emails, and phone calls after reading about my story and a platform like the globe. And we were able to make some changes to the state law that we hope will help people in situations like mine. Moving forward, obviously, like the devil is in the details. And we'll have to see how it goes. I was advocating for a more expansive language, but the language that was finally agreed upon is a real improvement, and is real progress, real meaningful progress. So it was definitely a win. But there's, you know, always more work to be done.
I mean, that has all been happening in the background. And then of course, yeah, Row being overturned at the end of June, you're already working with lawmakers, Massachusetts, this law then was signed at the end of July. So I mean, congratulations. That's incredible. And yet you're able to make that change. But I imagine there's somewhat of discouraging at the same time, like you've made this, you've made some headway, and then in the midst of it, the whole country is going in the opposite direction.
Totally. Yeah. And I honestly think that was kind of like, you know, never let a good crisis go to waste, right. Like, I think I was able to make some of that headway, because the lawmaker saw what's happening in the rest of the country. And they're like, Okay, the dynamics have changed here, we really need to shore up our laws in Massachusetts, so that we can really become something closer to that bastion of reproductive justice, we need to be opening ourselves up to patients from other states. And you know, now is the time when the political winds are at our backs, right, like people are paying attention. So it really, you know, in a way it was created an opportunity or created a sense of urgency, I would say, to try and do what we can within Massachusetts now. But yes, like a very dire troubling backdrop to all of this.
So I mean, some people might go, Well, I got a lot of change. I'm gonna move on from this, I'm gonna go back to, you know, focusing on my own life on my own family, continuing my own grieving process. That's it. You're obviously still very passionate about this issue. Are you expanding your goals? And what do you really hope comes from your advocacy now that you've sort of checked that first box? All right,
yeah. I mean, I think I'm going to be engaged in this type of advocacy for the rest of my life. You know, this is something that I already cared about. But when, you know, I went through I lived through an experience that impacted me so personally, and so deeply. And and that kind of coincided with the Supreme Court decision and in this turmoil at the national level, you know, this is something that I feel more and more passionate about every day, and I think we'll be involved with them, you know, for for as long as I can. I've made some really great friendships and relationships with wonderful advocates here in Massachusetts groups like reproductive equity now and the ACLU who are doing incredible work. So at a minimum, I really They want to support everything they're doing across the board, you know, and I have been focused primarily on access to later abortion care. And I think that is a real gap that a lot of people just don't think about, because it is so rare. But like I told Shirley, you know, it's rare until it's you, and it's a human rights issue. It's a question, like you said else? And like, Who is the one to be making these decisions about pregnancy complications, threats to maternal health, et cetera? later in pregnancy? Is it the patient in coordination with their doctors and their partner and, you know, their faith leader if they have one? Or is it the state, and I think that's really what it's all about. So I think I'm going to continue to stay focused on ways to expand access to later pregnancy care, because I feel like it is somewhat ignored, both at the, you know, the state level and on the national level. And I do think it's going to become more and more important, as people are pushed further and further into their pregnancies as they're trying to leave other states to seek care. So you know, anyone who will listen, I encourage them, you know, don't forget about access to later pregnancy care, you know, it's it's incredibly important, I think, is going to become unfortunately, increasingly important. So I'm going to keep fighting for tweaks to the Massachusetts State law here to to make the language more expansive, to further empower physicians. Massachusetts is a state that has a gestational ban, right, so we have a ban at 24 weeks, and then we have an array of exceptions. So in this latest when we expanded those exceptions, but it's still that same structure of like a band, with exceptions, not every state is like that. So you know, my hope is that one day Massachusetts could move beyond a gestational limit or a band based statutory structure, and then emulate other states like, you know, DC, or Vermont, for example, that do not are not grounded in in that kind of gestational cut off. And there's a lot of different ways to do that legislatively, you know, kind of ironically, where I ultimately got care Maryland. They do, they also have a band with exceptions, but there are exceptions are just broader. So again, there's there's many ways to get to the same goal. And from my perspective, you know, one of those main goals needs to be continuing to expand access to abortion throughout pregnancy, including later in pregnancy. And there's really cool stuff happening to like, despite the dire dire outlook on the national level, there's their two women who are opening a new clinic and Maryland, a new all trimester clinic in Maryland called Partners in abortion care, I think it's the first women owned women run clinic in the US. So there are providers like them, who are stepping up and thinking about access throughout pregnancy, which is so important and so inspiring,
or listening to you tell your story and hearing about the way that you've gone about things. I can't help but just think about just the power of storytelling, and especially the personal stories and how they shape policy eventually. It can you talk to some of what it's meant, personally beyond just the law that you change, to own your story in this way, like, as you said, the most difficult parts, days of your life, and one of the most difficult things that's ever happened to you to talk about it and to really just own it in this way. And how powerful that is.
Yeah, so it's, it's funny, right? So I, my professional background is in policy and politics. I'm a registered lobbyist. Like, I'm very comfortable speaking to lawmakers and advocates and trying to like navigate the policymaking space. So like that, that's kind of my comfort zone, and where I've kind of like gone for solace, like, Okay, I know how to do this. Storytelling is not what I do, right? Like, I'm used to being behind the scenes, and hearing other people's stories and acting upon them, right, and trying to bring about change based on other people's stories. So telling my own story was like, way out of my comfort zone. So it was a huge hurdle for me to start to share, arguably the most, like, intimate experience of my life, the most deeply personal, traumatic experience of my life. So it was hard to get over that, like, mental hurdle, to do that outside of the advocate space to kind of do it in the media more broadly. And, but once I did it, like, the first time, I actually, like, went out and told my story, I was at a rally, right after the dobs leak, I believe, and I, you know, got on this mic in front of this like crowd before March and I, you know, told kind of an abbreviated version of my story, and it felt really freeing, you know, it was a liberating experience for me to have, you know, you know, you know, there's all these kind of cliche phrases out there, right, like, you know, speaking your truth and walking in your power and all those things, but like, I'm like, oh, okay, like that, that felt freeing to me to take ownership over this experience. And you know, it was important for me that I was telling it with the goal of bringing about some change locally. Like for me, it was important to kind of connect the two. But, you know, it's been kind of an exhausting experience to, you know, to be out there kind of reliving it, but I think overall it's been really empowering and has given me a lot of peace really to just be able to share the unvarnished truth about what my family went through. And you know, so many people still even though I've been telling it now for a couple of months like so many people so are just so shocked like so surprised what what people have to do to access care because here in Massachusetts and in places like New York, you know, I think there's this belief that you can access reproductive health care and abortion freely at any point in your pregnancy without barriers without any hurdles and to hear from me that that's just not true. I think has been really eye opening for people
somebody's listening to this and they take away one thing I think they'll take away a lot more than that, but what do you hope that it is from your story?
I hope your listeners takeaway, that we should be trusting women and trusting pregnant people to make decisions about their bodies. That's pretty much that's that's the punch line.
Yeah. Okay. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you speaking with me and opening up and just for all that you're doing it is a very dark times out there and hearing that there are people like you working on this. I mean, it's invigorating for me but it also provides me some comfort.
Good. I'm glad we got a lot of work ahead. But there are a lot of really remarkable people in the fight. So it gives me a lot of hope till