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Danielle Deaver: Prevent women from living my tragedy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia lawmakers, I implore you to read my story. In August 2010, I was overjoyed to become pregnant. My husband and I still wanted nothing more than to give my son a brother or sister.

My pregnancy was proceeding normally, but then 22 weeks into my pregnancy, it went terribly wrong. My water broke and there was not enough amniotic fluid for my daughter to survive. This was heartbreaking. If there was anything we could have done to save her, we would have.

That my pregnancy ended, that choice was made by God. How to handle the end of my pregnancy, that should have been private. My husband and I should have been able to handle this with dignity with our doctor. The very best medical care should have been available to me.

While we wanted to do whatever we could to save our daughter, we did not want to cause her suffering. We agonized over the decision about what was best for our family.

After much careful thought, prayer, research and medical advice, my husband and I made the difficult decision that we wanted to induce labor and deliver my daughter as soon as possible.

We wanted to honor our daughter. We wanted to hold her and say goodbye. We wanted to preserve my health.

Nebraska was the first of a handful of states to enact a so-called "20 week abortion ban," similar to a bill considered by the West Virginia Legislature. As a result, the decision that should have remained mine and my husband's to make was decided for us -- and it was decided by politicians we'd never met.

Even though I wasn't looking for an abortion, my doctor and his legal counsel felt their hands were tied. "If I could help you, I would," he said, looking me in my tear filled eyes. "But I would go to jail."

The law, as you know, is black and white. Unfortunately, life just isn't. Though an infection was growing inside me, under the law I wasn't sick enough to warrant the induction my husband and I wanted.

Some have suggested my husband and I should have traveled to another state, but we didn't want to leave my doctor's care. And we didn't want to drive home with my daughter in a box.

So we waited. For days. While we waited, we tried to pray, but we didn't know what to pray for. So we spent our days and nights telling our daughter how much we loved her, how sorry we were, and how we wished we could do something different.

Then on Wednesday, Dec. 8, my daughter was born. My husband and I held Elizabeth as she gasped for air, and mere minutes later she was gone.

There are no words for how awful the 10 days were from the moment my water broke to the day my daughter died -- for the heart break that cut deeper every time she moved inside of me.

There are no words for the anger I felt when I learned after Elizabeth was born that my infection could have been analyzed, had my doctor been able to get to it sooner. With more information about what caused the problem, we might have been able to have a healthy pregnancy and birth later. But after 10 days, the infection was just too severe.

Members of the Senate, I want my daughter's life -- and the tragic circumstances surrounding her death -- to stand for something. Please right the wrong that Nebraska did to me and stop House Bill 4588. This is not about politics, it's about leaving the practice of medicine up to doctors and most importantly, it's about trusting women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

Deaver lives in Grand Island, Neb., with her husband Robb and their 5-year-old son.


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