I’ve quietly stood by listening to your opinions. I feel every painful assumption you make about me. You draw a line between right and wrong without hesitation, as if you know exactly what it feels like to be faced with a life-changing decision. The problem is, the picture you paint doesn’t look anything like me.
On January 5, 2016, I had a second-trimester abortion at 18 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I was not involved in rape or incest. I was not an unwed teenager. I did not have financial concerns with raising another child. I was not using abortion as a form of birth control. My baby was not unloved, unwanted, an accident, or a mistake.
My baby was not a “fetus.” She was a precious little girl who my husband and I named Grace, meaning “gift from God.” She was a younger sister, daughter, niece, and granddaughter, and she was so loved and so wanted. During an ultrasound at 17 ½ weeks pregnant, we learned the devastating news that our daughter was sick, fatally sick.
Our sweet Grace was diagnosed with trisomy 21 and nonimmune hydrops fetalis. As a result, her body was filling with fluid, and her organs were shutting down one by one. Her little legs had already stopped growing. Multiple specialists told me it was medically impossible for our daughter to survive longer than a few more weeks of pregnancy. Every ounce of excitement and future dream I had about our growing family was taken from me in a matter of minutes.
I am a Christian and I believe in miracles, but I also trust modern medicine. I could not stand the thought of my daughter suffering in the place she should feel safest. I could not fathom bonding with her longer and watching my belly grow bigger, only to say our inevitable goodbye. I could not labor for hours to deliver our dead daughter. The day my 2-year-old son was born was the best day of my life. I did not want those beautiful memories of the best day tainted with the worst.
My doctor told me waiting several weeks until she passed on her own increased my risk of infection, hemorrhaging, and other medical complications, including death. I didn’t want to take those risks. I still had the responsibility of being a mother to my son and a wife to my husband. Suddenly I was faced with the most horrific choice of my life, one that I didn’t ask for nor wanted to make. I chose to end my very much wanted pregnancy.
Due to the laws you fought to pass, I learned that I was unable to end my pregnancy in my own state of Tennessee. Planned Parenthood can not perform an abortion after 15 weeks gestation, and the hospitals denied my request.
I was overcome with shame when the doctor who delivered my son told me she couldn’t legally perform the procedure. My own state legislators don’t trust me, her mother, to make the best decisions for my daughter and family. I felt like a fugitive fleeing the state to have my taboo procedure done in a state that didn’t see it that way. On the worst day of my life, I couldn’t even go home to my own bed. I had never given much thought to the pro-life or pro-choice stance until the laws put in place failed me, leaving me feeling alone, scared, and quite frankly, angry.
I haven’t spoken aloud the term abortion because there’s such a negative stigma around that word. It’s difficult to even type. With the elections coming up, it seems to be everywhere, haunting my every move. Not only do I have to grieve the painful loss of my daughter, I also have to carry the weight of the judgments people make about me.
Many pro-life family members and friends have said to me, “But your situation is different.” While comforting to hear at first, I now believe that thinking is the root of the problem. I am not different. The procedure I had is not different. If we continue to shy away from the term abortion, the perceptions will never change. The laws will never change.
While it’s painful and uncomfortable to admit, I had an abortion and this is what it looked like for me. It’s not always right or wrong, black or white. Some of us struggle every day in the gray, keeping our experiences hush-hush for fear of shame and judgment. We choose not to stand up for our rights in an effort to protect our already broken hearts from even more pain. And so the cycle continues—your voice shouts louder, restrictive laws get passed, and we heartbroken mothers continue to lose our rights to do what’s best for our families.
So while you were busy pushing your pro-life agenda, my husband and I said goodbye to our daughter in an out-of-state hospital surrounded by a group of strangers. While you stood outside a Planned Parenthood protesting, my husband stood alone in an out-of-state funeral home picking out a tiny urn to hold our daughter’s ashes. While you sit behind your computer clicking “share” for yet another anti-abortion article, I am on my knees praying that God’s arms are tightly wrapped around my sweet little angel. You talk about abortion as the selfish act of killing a baby, but what you don’t realize is a part of the mother dies that day, too.
Please, include us in the abortion debate. Consider all of the gray areas before you support anti-abortion laws. Don’t shy away from us because it makes you uncomfortable. We are mothers who have chosen abortion due to severe prenatal diagnoses. We make this choice out of love, and we are doing the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt.