On January 27, I spoke at an event commemorating the 41st Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I spoke about the tragedy of losing our son, who was due to be born today, March 15, and why sharing stories is critical in our fight for reproductive rights. I’m posting this today in our son’s memory and in the hope that you will be brave and share your story, so that the people in your life can find greater understanding of what’s at stake when we talk about reproductive rights.
Text of the speech:
Good evening. My name is Lindsay Bubar.
We are here tonight to talk about how we, as advocates and as community leaders, can continue to protect our right to choose.
We all know the threats women face from reactionary legislatures across the country. We all know that tireless and unrelenting advocacy on behalf of women is the best way to protect our most basic rights. But too often, we forget about the most powerful, the most effective and the most important tool we have as advocates — stories.
Stories matter. They can change the world.
We are in West Hollywood this evening, and I doubt that I need to remind anyone here that it was people bravely coming out and revealing their true selves to their families, friends and neighbors that accelerated the LGBTQ equality movement to a pace never before seen in the history of social progress. Personal stories helped the LGBTQ community replace an abstract concept of “equality” with faces and with voices. They were forcing the opponents of equality to realize that it wasn’t an ill-defined and nebulous group of people who were the victims of hate-based laws, it was specific people — sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, who suffered the consequences of intolerance.
That personal connection, which was so incredibly effective in turning the tide for marriage equality fights across the country, must also be a part of the conversations we have about protecting reproductive rights.
Stories matter. They have changed the world, and they can again.
It would be naive to think that a story will convince any and everyone. Indeed, some of those on the far right have made up their minds about abortion. But there are many who can be convinced, who can be turned toward understanding that even though they might not make the same decision, having the right to choose at all is the important part of this conversation.
We need to reach out to the people who don’t yet understand how important having a choice is. These people aren’t our enemy, silence is.
We cannot be afraid to break the silence, to share our stories. So, in that spirit, here is mine.
Last October, we were at a college football game with my family when my husband and I felt our son — our first child — kick for the first time.
It was right as the band was playing its loudest, so as soon as we got home we turned on loud music to see if we could get him to kick again. Of course, he did, right on cue. That was a Saturday — our 20 week checkup was on the following Monday. We were especially excited for this appointment because they were going to confirm the baby’s gender, which meant we could start telling our families the baby’s name and that in mid-March, they were going to meet Evan.
As the doctor performed the ultrasound, he took measurements of Evan’s legs, which were perfect, the placement of his kidneys, which were perfect, and then his brain, which the doctor kept measuring, again and again. Finally, the doctor told us that one measurements in Evan’s brain was a little off and that he wanted a better look. That started a week of tests and retests, opinions and second opinions.
Every day, my husband and I would come home from that day’s excruciating appointments and would try to avoid talking about the possibility of losing our baby.
We kept telling ourselves that “we weren’t there yet,” that this couldn’t possibly be happening. Not to us. Not to our baby.
We were wrong. After weeks of tests and appointments, the doctors confirmed that Evan had an incredibly rare malignant brain tumor and a likely-related case of fetal hydrocephaly, which was preventing his brain from developing properly. We were told that the risks of delivering and operating on the tumor early were too high, so if we decided to carry Evan to term, he would need to be rushed into surgery immediately after birth and at best, he would have a 50% chance of surviving the procedure. The worst news was still to come — even if Evan survived the surgery, the best case scenario was that he would be technically alive, but would have no brain function and couldn’t ever hope to see, hear, talk or smile.
As we see our friends, cousins and siblings raise our nieces and nephews, the constant theme I’ve noticed about parenting is that it is mostly about making choices — that becoming a parent means assuming the responsibility to make choices for another person. The only choice my husband and I got to make meant that we would never get to meet our son. Though the heart-wrenching circumstances of Evan’s tumor made the choice clear to both my husband and I, we can’t pretend it was easy. We made the choice out of love for our son and because we didn’t want to bring him in the world only to suffer. We consulted with our doctor, we talked with our friends and families, and at nearly 22 weeks, I had a late-term abortion.
The story doesn’t end there, though. It can’t end there.
As we were walking into the surgical center for the final day of the three- day procedure, my husband and I both received the same email from a progressive organization about a new bill that had been introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bill would outlaw abortions past 20 weeks and seemed to be aimed directly at preventing us from making the specific choice we made. The universe was hardly being subtle in the awful irony it slapped us with that day, but it certainly did help connect our current tragedy with the ongoing debate about reproductive rights in America.
In the middle of the grief we felt and the heartbreak we were suffering, the news that another federal abortion ban had been introduced helped us realize that the only reason we even had a choice in our situation was because we live in California and not one of the dozen states with 20-week abortion bans. We realized that when Wendy Davis stood and spoke for 13 hours last year, it was to stop a law that would have specifically outlawed the exact choice my husband and I made. We were the people who Lindsay Graham and Rick Perry were trying to take this intensely personal choice away from.
So, today, four decades and a year after Roe v Wade and in the midst of increasingly aggressive and offensive attacks on our rights and our choices, I am asking you to please be brave and share your story. If your family has suffered through a loss like my husband and I did, be brave and share your story. If you want to protect reproductive rights and choices for future generations and build on the legacy we celebrate today, be brave and share your story.
You don’t need to be a woman to share your story. My husband and I were faced with the same decision, the same impossible choice, the same heartbreak. This is our story, and the men who are so often forgotten and overlooked in this fight should use their voices and tell their stories too. It won’t always be easy. My husband and I have experienced very different reactions to our tragedy, and people have rarely acknowledged his loss and grief.
We cannot ignore the 49% of the population who, while differently, are definitely affected by laws restricting our rights and choices — as women and as families. The men in our lives are too important to this fight not to be an active and vocal part of it.
You don’t need to have had an abortion to share a story about protecting reproductive health. Stories beyond abortion are critical as well. Share a story about your personal reason for being a women’s health advocate. Share your story if you have ever needed affordable access to birth control, or emergency contraception, or have ever visited Planned Parenthood or another clinic. If you like and think it will help, share my story. But you have to be brave. You have to share a story.
This is all of our fight. If you are someone who has had an abortion, someone who loves someone who has, or if you are one of the millions of women in America who have a story beyond abortion, this is your fight. You have to be brave. You have to share a story.
My story is about Evan. It is about the worst choice anyone could ever have to make, and it is about how important it was that my husband and I were able to make the choice at all.
My story doesn’t end here. It can’t end here. You must carry it forward and you must never be silent. It is the only way we will win.