My husband and I desperately wanted to have a baby. We looked extensively into adoption and tried to get pregnant for four years with the help of fertility specialists — enduring two in-vitro procedures and multiple failed embryo transfers. We were thrilled when our most recent in-vitro fertilization proved successful.
Unfortunately, we discovered after my 21-week anatomy scan that our daughter — Grace Pearl — had bilateral multicystic dysplastic kidney disease. Her kidneys were not functioning, she had no amniotic fluid and her lungs would never develop properly. Three doctors told us our daughter’s condition was 100 percent fatal due to the early onset of her disease. She would either be stillborn or would not survive long after birth. My own risk would increase sevenfold if I continued to carry her.
We made the excruciating decision to terminate the pregnancy at 21 weeks and five days — nearly six months. We did this out of love: Terminating was the least painful and most humane thing we could do for her. We did all we could to take on the physical and emotional suffering ourselves, instead of allowing her to feel it. The physician cut her umbilical cord prior to the termination to ensure that her heart would stop beating and that she’d have as peaceful of an experience as possible. Her pathology report confirmed the doctors’ fatal diagnosis.
But the process to get that abortion in Missouri — the state where we live — was one of the most callous and insulting experiences we have ever endured.
My husband and I had to wait 72 hours after consenting to the abortion so we could “consider what we were doing.” I had to sign a statement affirming that I heard my baby’s heartbeat (a sound that brought tears of joy to my eyes when I first heard it) and that I saw an ultrasound (I had asked for more than what is routinely provided to reassure myself, having experienced a miscarriage in the past). We were given a packet explaining that we were terminating “the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” There are no exceptions to these protocols, even for people terminating for fetal anomaly.
Missouri doesn’t allow private insurance to provide coverage for abortions except in cases of life endangerment — patients have to purchase riders for abortion coverage at an additional cost. That can make it extremely expensive to obtain one even at Planned Parenthood, which is not able to use federal funds for abortions. There are exceptions for this rule in the case of rape, incest or the health of the mother, but the health of the fetus is not considered.
In fact, had we done the procedure a mere two days later, we would have had to leave the state to have the termination due to Missouri’s late-term abortion law. In that sense we were lucky, but what would happen to a single parent who couldn’t get off work, save the needed money or find someone to watch her children before the deadline? What if she didn’t live in a metropolitan area with such excellent doctors and facilities?
I’m sharing this so you know who is affected if we further defund Planned Parenthood, totally outlaw abortions or prohibit late-term procedures. Indeed, Missouri is considering a 20-week abortion ban with no exceptions for cases of fetal anomalies.
If you believe you wouldn’t make the same choice we did, be grateful that you will probably never have to. But no one should force such a decision on anyone. This should be between you, your partner, your medical professionals and your higher power, if you believe in one. It felt utterly terrible to realize that politicians — who knew nothing about our circumstances, or worse, wouldn’t care if they did because their supporters are so dogmatically pro-life — have such control over our options.
Imagine for a moment that the political situation was reversed. Imagine how you would feel if churches and people in government thought the most humane route for a fatal diagnosis was to immediately terminate the fetus against your wishes. Imagine that multiple doctors advised you to continue with the pregnancy, but that you couldn’t take their advice or follow your own instincts because a law prohibited you from doing so.
I know I won’t change every mind with our story, but I beg everyone to consider the full impact of outlawing abortion or making it more difficult to obtain one. Know that people like us would be hurt and that babies like Grace would suffer. Thankfully, we were able to do what we believed was best for our beloved baby girl. Please don’t make it so others can’t do so in the future.
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