Kailee DeSpain, a self-proclaimed “quintessential pro-lifer,” has suddenly changed her stance on the Texas abortion law after her own life was endangered. Faced with a high-risk pregnancy, and a most likely unviable fetus, the 29-year-old Texan had to travel across state lines after being told she could not get a legal abortion in the state.
Two months after one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bans went into effect – Texas’ SB 8 – DeSpain learned while moving into her second trimester that “The fetus had severe genetic heart and brain defects that made it unlikely to survive after birth.” Doctors told DeSpain she was “at high risk for severe pregnancy complications, including blood clots, preeclampsia, and cancer,” CNN reported.
Though the Lone Star State’s ban allows exceptions to save the mother’s life, the circumstances of what exactly is required to prove a life-threatening situation is up to interpretation. The guidelines are so vague that physicians have found themselves at a crossroads between Texas law and their oath.
Faced with out-of-pocket costs and travel expenses – not to mention the potential health risks when carrying a pregnancy that could be detrimental to both the mother’s and the baby’s mortality – DeSpain is one of many coming to the realization that pro-life doesn’t fit in the box they’ve placed it in, and that the overturning of Roe v. Wade is about so much more than the constitutional right to abortion.
She and her husband, Cade, had to drive 10 hours to New Mexico to find safe and legal abortion access. The procedure and travel cost $3500, she told CNN, and her insurance company declined to pay for it because Texas severely limits the insurance coverage of abortion, even in severe and life-threatening circumstances.
“I’ve never felt more betrayed by a place I was once so proud to be from,” DeSpain lamented.
Warned of the potential dangers by her physician, DeSpain was shocked by the law and the fact that it applies to her. Her reaction is an example of the mental gymnastics and privilege that many so-called “pro-life” Republican women live with to justify their positions, taking for granted that they would always have access to the quality medical care they needed when they needed it.
“She said ‘this is not safe,’” Kailee recalled in the interview. “She said, ‘I need you to look at me. I need you to understand that if you get pregnant in Texas and that if you have complications, that I cannot intervene until I can prove that you’re going to die.’”
Mrs. DeSpain told the Independent, “My doctors said to me: ‘We’re going to be blunt – you have to be dying on the table, and we have to be able to prove that before we can intervene.’”
“Texas doesn’t have a law that covers the time period from the moment the doctor finds out there are complications to the moment the complications actually start. They have to allow the complications to start and just hope it’s not too late.”
The reality that many marginalized women have been dealing with has finally dawned on Kailee DeSpain, who can’t for the life of her understand, “How could you be so cruel as to pass a law that you know will hurt women and that you know will cause babies to be born in pain?” she said. “How is that humane? How is that saving anybody?”
Many American women and supporters of reproductive autonomy and rights already knew it isn’t and it doesn’t.
That the DeSpains were able to spend $3500 to get the procedure needed in the interest of the mother’s health and safety shines another light on the disparity between those without the financial means — those with risks to their lives and health due to inequities in how the law is applied – and those who can afford to go around the law by traveling from texas to another state with less draconian laws.
Unfortunately, there will be a lot more Kailee DeSpains as long as GOP women continue to operate on an “if it doesn’t affect me, it isn’t important” basis when it comes to reproductive rights.
Original reporting by Elizabeth Cohen and Danielle Herman at CNN.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick