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Sultan: St. Peters woman changes deeply held views on abortion after giving birth as a teen
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Sultan: St. Peters woman changes deeply held views on abortion after giving birth as a teen

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Jane Nickles was born and raised in a conservative Catholic family in a conservative Midwestern suburb.

Growing up, her working-class parents scrimped to put her and her siblings through private Catholic schools. Nickles attended masses for the unborn, prayed at vigils to end abortion and raised money for pro-life groups. She believed fervently in the message she was taught.

She was working part-time at a pizza place as a senior at St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon, Missouri, when she became pregnant. She visited a Planned Parenthood clinic seeking an abortion out of fear and desperation.

Nickles isn’t sure if she spoke to a nurse or doctor there, but she remembers saying that her parents would kill her if they found out. The Planned Parenthood worker persuaded her to talk to her mom before making a decision.

Nickles thought she might get help from Birthright, an anti-abortion group that seeks to counsel pregnant women, before talking to her mother.

“They made me watch an anti-abortion video for an hour and sign forms saying I would never have an abortion,” she said. They didn’t offer her any other assistance.

When she told her mom, she said Nickles would have the baby and give her to a wealthy relative to raise.

End of discussion.

Nickles knew she needed her parents’ help to survive. Her boyfriend at the time disappeared a few months before their baby was due to be born.

She recently posted about her experience of the birth in a private Facebook group, explaining why the Supreme Court hearings on Amy Coney Barrett, who could help overturn Roe v. Wade, were so personal for her.

She gave me permission to share a version of that post, along with some clarification she offered during an interview. Nickles, now 35 and living in St. Peters, asked that I use her middle name because she fears retaliation from her employer for her views. She raised her girl, who is now 17 years old, and made sure she has access to birth control.

Nickels wrote that this experience is what converted her from a “pro life” Catholic Republican to a pro-choice Democrat:

“When I was 17 and pregnant with my daughter, my dad’s insurance did not cover maternity care for a dependent. The state of Missouri considered me legally emancipated because I was pregnant, so I could not get state coverage. I didn’t qualify for Medicaid because my parents “made too much” as a beautician and a union laborer. So my family and I set out to find a doctor that would accept an uninsured, pregnant minor.

“We could not find a single facility to take me in St. Charles County. I even walked into Catholic Charities in my school uniform with my pregnant belly hanging over my plaid skirt and said to the receptionist, “I am pregnant. I don’t have insurance and my parents’ insurance won’t cover me, and I need help.”

“The receptionist looked at me and said: ‘We don’t do that type of charity here.’

“Then, a family friend who was a nun and worked in a hospital system was able to help us get a cash deal for care at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles. Thank God for that nun, I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.

“My parents had to pay in cash before every checkup, screening, ultrasound, etc. When it came time for delivery, everything was cash payment a la carte. By this point, there wasn’t much cash left.

“The cheapest option was the one that was forced on me at 17 — vaginal birth, no pain medication, no epidural.

“Needless to say, childbirth was far too much for me to handle. I was hyperventilating, panicking, begging for it to be over. And that was my first hour. Although I was legally emancipated, the hospital would not let me make my own medical decisions until midnight when I turned 18. My mom left the room for a few minutes, and a nurse rushed me consent forms to sign for an epidural before she came back.

“It was another 15 hours before I started pushing, and the epidural had worn off. I tore in four places (third-degree lacerations, from what I was told). Because I didn’t have the money for any more medication, I was sutured without any numbing. Can you imagine — 18 years and 16 hours old, pushing out a baby, tearing and stitching with full feeling and no medication in the most sensitive area of your body?

“After I went home from the hospital, I was still uninsured since I was now 18 and not enrolled in full-time school anymore. I had graduated high school four months earlier. I could not see a doctor for follow-up care. My parents let me stay home to recuperate for a week, and a week after giving birth I returned to working full-time. I got mastitis two weeks postpartum that stopped my milk production and caused excruciating pain. My stitches got so infected I used a mirror and tweezers to take them out myself and treated it with alcohol.

“Was I in a third-world country? Was this that time when America was great? Nope.

“This was all in Missouri in 2003 before the Affordable Care Act.

“If the ACA is repealed, your daughter could suffer the same way.

“This is barbaric.

“To be pro-life is to demand universal healthcare coverage for all.

“To be pro-life is to demand maternity coverage.

“To be pro-life is to demand coverage for dependents to 26.

“To be pro-life is to demand coverage for preexisting conditions.

“To be pro-life is to demand unrestricted access to birth control.

“All the above is covered by law in the ACA passed in 2010.

“Guess who wants to repeal it with no real plan in place?”

The people who call themselves “pro-life.”

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