Jill Biden held back tears on Tuesday as she listened to women describe the physical and mental health effects of denying an abortion in the year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The first lady had a conversation with four women about the impact of the Dobbs decision on their lives. It’s part of a series of events President Joe Biden’s administration is hosting ahead of Saturday’s one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“The Dobbs decision was devastating,” said Jill Biden. “The Dobbs decision took away women’s constitutional rights, their ability to make their own health decisions.”
She hugged the women before their conversation began. And she held back tears as the four women shared their personal stories, holding hands with some of them as they spoke. All of the women described the life-threatening danger they faced after being denied an abortion while carrying a fetus unable to survive.
An emotional Jill Biden listened to women share their stories of life-threatening conditions they faced after being denied abortions
The first lady seemed particularly emotional when Dr. Austin Dennard of Texas, an OB/GYN, spoke about discovering that her baby had anencephaly – a condition that causes a baby to be born without parts of the brain and skull.
Dennard wiped away tears as she talked about knowing her baby wouldn’t survive after birth and how, due to Texas’ abortion ban, she had to travel out of state for the procedure.
She said she and her husband “were worried and scared about whether or not we should use a credit card or tell anyone where we were going on the East Coast.” We feared that our abilities to practice medicine would be compromised. It was completely humiliating.
“I’m here as a person, who also happens to be a doctor, telling you that the state of Texas has completely abandoned me of my own reproductive rights, but it’s also stripped the foundation of the doctor-patient relationship: trust and open and honest communication,’ she said.
“I never thought I would need an abortion for one shot – let alone two. But I did it and it’s the right decisions for my family and me. The State of Texas should not be making these decisions for me or anyone else.
Jill Biden listened to women discuss the impact of the Dobbs decision on their lives and health
Jill Biden holds hands with Elizabeth Weller of Texas as she talks about her pregnancy complications and difficulty getting medical attention
Jill Biden also held hands with Elizabeth Weller of Texas, who described how, when she was 18 weeks pregnant with her first child, her waters broke.
Doctors told Weller they couldn’t intervene until they could no longer detect a fetal heartbeat or she had developed a life-threatening infection.
She returned until she developed an infection severe enough for the hospital to perform an abortion.
“I was given two options. I could either stay in the hospital to wait for my baby to die. At that point I was able to get the abortion I needed to protect my health. Or I I could go home and wait for my daughter to die or for an infection to develop that could result in my own death,’ Weller said.
“We asked to go to another state, but my doctor who was worried about me said traveling was too dangerous. The darkest week of my life began as I was discharged from the hospital and amniotic fluid was actively dripping from my feet down my legs. With each passing day, I felt the intentional cruelty of the state.
Jill Biden spoke about her own experience with abortion, when she helped a close friend recover from the pre-Roe v. Wade procedure when it was still illegal.
She criticized Republicans for the role played by abortion rights. And she used that and other issues as a rallying cry for the Democratic base. She copied President Joe Biden in criticizing the policies the Bidens say “MAGA Republicans” will bring.
“You know what’s in store for us if these MAGA Republicans win. We know it because we’ve been through it,’ Jill Biden said at a fundraiser in California last week.
‘Do you remember how hard it was the last time? This time it will be even more difficult,” she noted. “The fight for freedom does not stop. This is the most important election of our lives.
Jill Biden kicked off a series of events the White House is hosting to mark the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs’ decision
The first lady met four women in the Blue Room of the White House to hear their stories
During Tuesday’s roundtable, Anya Cook from Florida described how she faced life-threatening denial of care following a miscarriage.
Her water broke at 16 weeks, but she was discharged from the ER because of Florida’s abortion ban. The next day she miscarried and returned to the hospital.
‘The doctor said I had lost more than half the blood in my body. And I was so weak that I need six more days in the hospital,” she said.
“All because career politicians who are not doctors had interfered with basic and essential health care, political decisions, very personal and private life decisions. We don’t know if I can get pregnant now or carry at birth. But the target of our anger is well known: it is the people who have taken away our human rights to health, liberty and personal autonomy. Someone has to fight these insidious laws in the states of the country. This is my fight. This is our fight,” she said.
Nancy Davis from Louisiana shared how she learned at 10 weeks that her fetus had a condition called acrania, in which the skull fails to develop.
Doctors confirmed it was a life-threatening diagnosis, but said they could not perform abortions due to state abortion laws. She traveled to New York for the procedure.
“I was forced to carry my baby while crying. I had to travel 1400 miles to a foreign place leaving my children and family behind just to access the abortion,” she said.
The White House is planning a series of high profile events around the first anniversary of the Dobbs decision.
On Friday, President Joe Biden, Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will join several Democratic abortion rights groups for a special event ahead of Saturday’s anniversary.
For the anniversary itself, Harris will travel to North Carolina to deliver a major speech on the issue of abortion rights as she and Biden run for a second term in the White House.
The Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022 decision returned the authority to each state to regulate any aspect of abortion not protected by federal law.
In the aftermath, Democrats used the issue to rally their base ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. The party’s ability to hold on to the small Senate and House Republican gain was attributed to voter anger over to the Dobbs decision.
Fourteen states currently ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy, one when heart activity can be detected at around six weeks and three between 12 and 15 weeks, according to an Associated Press tally.
Of those 17 states with the strictest restrictions, 12 have no exceptions for rape or incest. They all have exceptions to save the woman’s life in at least some circumstances.
At least six states have bans that the courts have suspended.
Another state, North Carolina, has a ban after 12 weeks of pregnancy that doesn’t go into effect until July 1.
Abortion bans also apply to the prescription of pills to induce abortions.
The series of events planned around the anniversary show that Biden and his campaign are using the issue to rally their voter base ahead of the presidential election.
And, on Friday, President Biden, Jill Biden, Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will join EMILYs List, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund to mark the first anniversary.