Day of Voices: Tony

LaylaMy name is Tony Giachelli. I am an attorney in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I am a Christian, I am a husband, I am a father, I am a Republican, I am Pro-Life, and I am afraid.

I am afraid that this letter was not written soon enough, afraid that it won’t be read by enough people, afraid that those who read it will be undeterred by the plea of just one man, afraid of what this Initiative will do to our state.

I have been hesitant to involve myself in such a fray. I have never been one to get too involved in politics. I was content that the masses would ultimately do the right thing and doubtful that I could actually make a difference. However, in 2010 my life changed forever, and my perspective of life changed with it.

My beautiful wife Claire and I learned in 2009 that having our own child would be a difficult endeavor. We tried on our own, to no avail, and were placed in the good hands of Dr. John Isaacs and his staff at the Mississippi Fertility Institute in the summer of 2009. Unexplained infertility was the diagnosis, and assisted reproduction was our only option. We ultimately decided to try in-vitro fertilization after exhausting various other methods of conception. We followed all of the steps and produced 4 viable embryos, 2 of which were transferred to Claire and 2 of which were cryo-preserved. We thought that our dream was complete when we learned that 1 of the 2 transferred embryos had implanted and Claire was pregnant in October 2009. Then we were hit with another surprise. On a routine visit, the ultrasound technician found what appeared to be an ectopic pregnancy in one of Claire’s fallopian tubes. While one of the embryos had implanted in the uterus, it appeared that the other would threaten Claire’s life. Emergency surgery was next, and we were relieved to find that it was not an ectopic pregnancy, but an extremely large and growing cyst that would have likely caused similar damage to her reproductive system. The cyst was safely removed and we moved forward, hopeful that the viable embryo in Claire’s uterus would thrive. Unfortunately, that was not the case. We had a miscarriage shortly thereafter.

We were rocked. Doubt crept back. We felt a sadness that we had never known, but leaning on each other we picked ourselves up and looked to our other two embryos. We clung to God and clung to hope. We now cling to the most beautiful little girl in the world, Layla Elizabeth Giachelli, who turned 1 year old on October 8, 2011.

Without in-vitro, without the autonomy of our doctors, without the ability to preserve those 2 embryos, there would be no Layla. In our journey, we lost 3 out of the 4 embryos. In reality, we lost them in a way no different from the way millions of families have lost their unborn children. There is no fair explanation for miscarriage, only the comfort that God’s plan is perfect and that He will provide. In our story, perfection came in the form of a 6lb 15oz angel on earth.

Initiative 26 is a flawed proposal. It is short sighted, vague and ambiguous. It has been thrust upon the people of Mississippi by those that hope we are not smart enough to recognize its fatal flaws. It has been thrust upon the people of Mississippi by those that hope we are just conservative enough to ignore the pitfalls it would create. I am not going to guarantee you that Initiative 26 will result in women being thrown in jail for miscarriage, that it will ban certain types of birth control, that it will end in-vitro, or that it would value the life of an embryo over that of a woman in a life or death situation. This Initiative is so impossibly vague that I can’t honestly answer those questions, and I find it hilarious that various “experts” are assuring the public that it won’t do these things. The truth is that it could. The truth is that Initiative 26 is so broad and ambiguous that we don’t know, and that is a scary truth. This truth was acknowledged by our Governor today, one of the most conservative Republicans in the nation, who expressed the same fears. If passed, it will cost our state millions in court battles and it will wear on the emotions of Mississippians. Its breadth will result in numerous unintended consequences. It will hinder the autonomy of physicians, and especially reproductive specialists. To what extent, we cannot pretend to know, but it is likely that assisted reproduction will be severely limited and forever changed. It directly and severely threatens the continued practice of cryopreservation, meaning another family’s Layla could be an impossibility.

I personally do not believe in abortion. It would warm my heart to know that every baby has been given a chance at life. However, Initiative 26 is not the answer. To outline all of the unintended consequences and legal implications of this Initiative would transform this letter from an emotional plea to a legal treatise. We just don’t have time for that, do we?

Though I sit with my own fear that I have not done enough to help, I am asking anyone that receives this letter to not be afraid. Do not be afraid that opposing 26 offends your Christian beliefs. It does not. Do not be afraid that opposing 26 means that you support abortion. It does not. You might have never considered what it would be like to deal with an ectopic pregnancy. You might have never considered what it would be like to seek the assistance of an endocrinologist to bring a life into this world. I was that person at one time and my perspective has changed. Please help me ensure that tomorrow’s prospective parents have the same opportunities that we had by voting No on Initiative 26 and please feel free to share this note with your friends.

About Atlee Breland

I'm a Mississippian, a Christian, a computer programmer, a wife, and -- thanks to infertility treatment -- a mother of three wonderful children.
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