Anyone Who Argues for Life Has to Recognize the ACA Protects Children Inside the Womb and Out

I work for a federal children's program, and we just scrape by on me and my husband's wages with full-time jobs. We have three children, though for half the pregnancy we thought we might end up with only two, or two healthy ones and a very, very sick baby.

I am insured through my workplace, though the insurance is high deductible. It's still the best that could be provided by the organization, and vastly better than falling in the gap between the expanded pay-in state insurance program and lower deductible, higher cost insurance. If it weren't for my workplace insurance, when we found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child, prenatal care would have been unobtainable. We had finally gotten out of real poverty, and guaranteed state help for me, but we are still living very much paycheck to paycheck.

If it weren't for the pay-in CHIP option, my other two children would not have coverage at all. Thanks to it, they are actually quite healthy and happy children. They were little surprises, in part because I could not, before the institution of the ACA or before I got out of the weird gap that exists for an older student, access affordable healthcare consistently. But they are well loved and thriving.

With our third child, it was a whole mess of complications. Initially, we thought I had miscarried between 6-7 weeks, but were wary of having a medical check due to the deductible costs and the way miscarriages are tracked that early. However, I got very ill a month later and found out I was still pregnant after all, on top of the rest. Because of all the complications we'd run into, I had my first prenatal visit at 16 weeks, where she was declared healthy and was a surprise after two weeks of bleeding. I told my children at 18 weeks that they would be a big brother again, and a big sister, and they were enchanted immediately. And then ... then the 20-week anatomy scan came, and just as we were figuring out how to fit a third child into our lives, we found out we might not be.

Our third child has a congenital defect, a CPAM. It's basically a growth off the lung that can indicate a whole host of issues. If it weren't for my work insurance, the 10 weeks of weekly ultrasounds to ensure that it wasn't a cancer, or that her heart wasn't giving out, or a whole host of things they needed to track, would have been impossible. The MRI at 29 weeks to determine if her tiny lungs would be able to draw in air at all at birth would have been impossible — it let us know she still has less lung capacity than most, but she had a fighting chance. The biweekly checks to see if her heart was holding out would have also been impossible. 

And, most importantly to me, it would have been completely impossible for us to travel to Indianapolis to deliver her in proximity to facilities that could have handled it if her esophagus had not allowed her to take in that first breath at birth.

She could breathe, in the end. She cried at birth, if a fluid-filled cry, and she could nurse, and she was alert, and our Esperanza (hope) is the apple of her brother and sister's eye. But the growth is still there, and between national studies and a Riley Children's Hospital study, she has a 5-10 percent chance of that odd little lump turning into cancer, and a greatly heightened chance of it making her get constantly sick.

We are no richer, save in love and children, so we desperately need to be able to access CHIP for her as well. We can pay in some. We have since we started financially treading water, and our other two children are quite healthy so it was rarely used. Rarely used, but a promise that no matter what happened, be it car catastrophe or job loss, we could take our children to the doctor.

And now? Now, as my week-old daughter nurses in my lap, all I see is promises that they mean to snatch the rug out from under us. That they mean to ensure that we can't access appropriate medical care for a loved daughter whom her brother and sister already adore, already love so deeply and fiercely that they will argue over just whose sister she is and who gets to snuggle her next. Our little Hope will need her surgical consultation, will need to be kept strictly on her vaccination schedules so a careless cough doesn't ruin her working, but shallow lungs. We need to know that we can take her to get care. We don't have resources to sell. We don't have enough people to beg from. And frankly, even with the healthiest child, the most perfect child, no one should have to beg to be able to care for them as they love them. Mind, her brother and sister feel their sister is already perfect, and we want to protect her as much for their love of her as our own.

I know there are sadder stories, deeper stories. But I feel like even without the CPAM, Esperanza's story is a lot like so, so many people in our country's. We love our children. We want them to be well. And because of the complexities of the American system, which will simply be thrown into greater chaos by the dismantling of the ACA, we need programs like this to do it. Anyone who argues for life, for children, has to recognize that this protects SO many children, both in the womb and out.