Pro-Choice as an Act of Love
How making the most heartbreaking choice for my family’s future almost killed me, and why restriction to abortion access affects every parent
Author’s note: I am sharing this story honestly and using my real name because I hope to break the silence that surrounds this issue.
I am on my knees, my face in the seat of a rocking recliner. The clock passes midnight and it’s just the four of us—me, my husband, our baby and a nurse—inside an abortion clinic 90 miles from our home and friends. There is no bed or doctor to ease my way toward delivery of my son, whose life I am ending as my first true act of motherhood.
The nightmare began unfolding for my husband, David, and me on Halloween 2006, the day I answered a call at the office from my doctor informing me of the far-from-optimal results of my prenatal Quad screening, a series of tests I’d agreed to due to my “advanced maternal age” of 35. We were a solid, mature couple reveling in the joy of my growing belly and the limitless possibilities of this much-wanted first pregnancy. A negative outcome was something we’d never considered, nor been prepared for by my doctor.
My OB’s office sprang into action, securing me a same-day appointment with a high-risk doc who would provide a level II ultrasound and an amniocentesis, if I wished. We felt secure in our doctors’ care.
Two days later, the genetic counselor called us in to deliver the news of our son’s chromosomal disorder, which would present a series of major physical and emotional challenges and possible surgeries down the road. My husband and I agreed that life is difficult enough without being dealt a bum hand from conception. The counselor squirmed when we asked about the possibility of termination, and handed us a fistful of printouts about his diagnosis. Then she whisked us through a back door that opened into the parking lot.
At the follow-up appointment with my OB, she told me, “I support your decision, but I cannot help you.” She explained her privileges at the hospital—despite it having no religious affiliation—do not permit performing an abortion if there is any chance of a live birth, even though abortion is legal in Florida until 24 weeks. Her only advice was that I find a clinic to provide an induced delivery, because “the other option is barbaric.” She did not tell me what that option was or what either of our choices entailed.
I was at the end of my 18th week of pregnancy and the clock was ticking. My husband and I were completely terrified, devastated—and alone. Terminating a much-wanted pregnancy due to a poor prenatal diagnosis is the ultimate taboo topic and we couldn’t think of anyone who’d been through it.