Voices Behind the Vote - Part 4: A Single Issue

Oct 16, 2012

Next in our Voices Behind the Vote series, we go to Texico, New Mexico, near the border with Texas.
Rita Daniels:  On a drizzly afternoon, I'm making my way into Texico, New Mexico, 16 miles east of Clovis, seeing signs for Romney/Ryan; no Obama signs out here.
On a drizzly afternoon, I met Mark and Twilla Koss
Twilla Koss:  I'm Twilla KossMark Koss:  Mark Koss
Rita:  Literally across the field from their home is the Lone Star State of Texas.I've never been out to this rural swath of New Mexico ranch land before, but from looking around I see there's an Air Force base, and quickly I discover that Mark operates heavy machinery for the county.
Mark:  Maintainers, backhoes, whatever they need me to do for that day, that's what I go do.
Rita:  And Twilla performs OB/GYN ultrasound.
Twilla:  I'm an ultrasonographer at a women's clinic
Rita:  So for the past twenty years, day-in, day-out, she looks at fetuses, ovaries, uteruses.
Twilla: I do about 20-something scans or more a day.
Rita:- Twilla is one of two sonographers at the sole clinic that serves a 90 mile radius. There are about 600 pregnant women under the clinic's care currently.
Twilla: Ultrasound reassures women.
Rita: Typically the drill is, when a woman discovers she's pregnant she finds a doctor and before long, to determine due dates and what not, an ultrasound is ordered.  And during these run-of-the-mill scans, if for any reason Twilla detects an abnormality, she calls in the doctor.
Twilla:  You know, if it's something mild like maybe the kidneys are building a little fluid, and that's all we notice, they'll wait to see if that resolves.  But if it's something like the gut is outside the abdomen, they send that to the perinatologist.
Rita: The perinatologist does a bunch of tests in order to determine whether the fetus is viable, so to speak…
Twilla:  Some things is lethal to babies and there's some things is lethal to moms.
Rita:  So being on the state line, Lubbock Texas is actually a lot closer to this clinic than Albuquerque, and most often insurance companies require the patients go to Texas to see the specialistt.  Which is where things begin to get tricky in this story, because laws vary state to state.  As you can imagine, 20 ultrasounds a day for 20 years …
Twilla:  I've seen a lot of abnormalities.
Rita:  It's part of the job.  But a few months ago an excited young woman and her husband, who'd just returned from Afghanistan, came in, pregnant in their first trimester…
Twilla:  And every system on that baby was abnormal.  All of it.  The brain wasn't developed, the heart was outside the chest, the spine was abnormally curved, there was an arm missing, and she was sent to Lubbock.
Rita:  The perinatologist told the couple this was a lethal situation.  That even if they choose to carry to term and deliver via c-section, the baby wouldn't live for more than three days, and medical costs would be close to half a million dollars, most of which would go uncovered by their insurance.  Earlier in the year, Texas had passed a law.
Twilla:  Texas passed a law that any woman wanting an abortion has to have a transvaginal ultrasound and the technologist there have to describe the baby to them. 
Rita : In addition doppler radar is placed on the babies heart and the would be parents have to listen.
Twilla:  And it was just so upsetting to me to know that Texas described all that to them, made her look at all that and a big military husband, who had just got back from Afghanistan, was severely upset and traumatized, crying. A nd watching everything they went through, it just burned me so bad. 
Rita:  Twilla said that when they went in for their abortion…
Twilla:  Church groups were there yelling "murderer". 
Rita:  As well as some of her co-workers.
Twilla:  And I don't understand why you're gonna be quote-unquote a "christian" but your'e gonna defy Matthew and judge other people.  Matthew says judge not, lest you be judged.  Walk what you preach.  Why don't you leave that person's problems between them and their doctor and God?  How can you call no brain or, you know, multiple multiple multiple surgeries to try to keep that heart beating a "life"?  That's not a life.
Rita : And even after 20 years as medical specialist, it was that very moment that lit a fire under Twila.  And Mark.  Right about that time the group UNITE WOMEN was holding a march at the capitol in Santa Fe.
Twilla: And I told my husband I'm so angry with politicians I'm going to this march, and he said I'm going with you.  He did have a sign he held.
Rita:  What did your sign say?
Mark: I don't even remember what it was now.
Twilla: I remember what mine said, because right before this happened is when Rush Limbaugh come out with that stupidity, and my sign said "this slut votes".
Rita: You may remember earlier in the year when Limbaugh called a Georgetown Law School student a slut and prostitute when she wanted to testify in Congress during a hearing on contraception.  The student was denied the right to speak on behalf of folks who needed birth control for things like hormone therapy to curb the growth of ovarian cysts and what not.  Both Mark and Twila are registered Republicans but don't feel that there's any way they can support their party's candidates.  Take, for example, the comment that Missouri Senatorial Candidate Todd Akin made earlier this year.
Twilla:   The thing that really upset him [Mark] was the comment about you can't get pregnant when your been raped, because your body knows it's wrong and it's got a chemical to kill it.  Then why are raped woman getting pregnant?
Mark:  They're making crazy comments.  You know, anybody would know that it's crazy.
Twilla:  I'm not happy really with either Democrat or Republican party, but in this election, I'm gonna have to vote for the person that I think is the least evil, and I cannot vote for a Republican who uses his postion and wants to take away rights of women.
Rita:  Even though Twilla comes from a lineage of pro-lifers…
Twilla: You know I'm thinking about my grandmother.  My gosh, I still remember her talking about when she got the right to vote.  You wanna take away birth control?  And I'm wondering what's next ... are they gonna take away the women's right to vote?  I think my grandmother would be proud of me. 
Rita: Twilla and Mark are casting their votes absentee ballot, since they'll be diving off the Great Barrier Reef on Election Day.For KUNM in Texico, New Mexico, I'm Rita Daniels.