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Spencer Rendahl: Hobby Lobby Decision

I’ve been pregnant four times that I know of. And mostly I loved the experience – like the 7-week ultrasound where I first met my daughter, then the size of a peanut, her heart a tiny but persistent dot pulsing on the screen.

I loved feeling each one of my daughter’s kicks - made with seemingly surgical precision and my son’s kicks that were more like part of a joyful dance. I cherished hearing my son’s first post-delivery cry and the hospital staff’s laughter when he promptly urinated on the doctor.

But I don’t love the hazards of pregnancy and their consequences. I didn’t love hearing the ultrasound technician’s gasp when she saw a different 7-week fetus of mine on her monitor. She wouldn’t tell me why I couldn’t see the heartbeat – in fact, she didn’t say anything for the next 45 minutes of what I later realized was a high-tech autopsy.

I don’t treasure the memory of hearing a doctor tell me that my new born daughter had a life threatening intestinal infection - one of the many risks of her two-month prematurity. He ordered her feeding tube removed and lines for intravenous fluids and antibiotics added to her 4-pound body. I waited helplessly by her hospital crib for a week until doctors determined the infection was gone.

I wasn’t thrilled when my day-old son showed alarmingly low results on a routine blood oxygen test, so low the nurse assumed the monitor was broken. After my son failed a second test from a different monitor, the nurse placed a tiny oxygen mask over his face, and he turned bright pink. It wasn’t fun asking the doctor if the hours my son spent getting half the oxygen he needed caused brain damage and receiving no clear answer.

I cherish my two beautiful, healthy children. But I also appreciate my IUD – or intrauterine device - that prevents me from having more.

IUDs are expensive: mine cost $1800. But they’re also one of the most reliable forms of contraception available. And the Affordable Care Act mandates their full coverage.

Hobby Lobby, a private company owned by Christian conservatives, has asked the US Supreme Court to be exempted from providing IUDs and “Plan B” emergency contraception in insurance coverage for its 13,000 employees who pay premiums and may not share the owners’ religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby’s owners don’t object to covering contraceptives that prevent conception, but they see preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall – part of how IUDs and “Plan B” work – as a form of early abortion, which they consider a sin. The court will decide the case within the next few days.

The American Medical Association doesn’t consider IUDs to be a form of abortion - and neither do I – let alone a sin. Mine allows me to avoid a pregnancy which in my early 40s would probably end in disaster. To me, it’s a blessing that should be available to all women, regardless of their employers’ religious beliefs.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
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