Protect abortion access for women like me

By Kate

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The Pennsylvania House will soon consider a bill that, if it had been law four years ago, would have prevented me from getting the abortion care I needed when I was pregnant with my daughter. Despite being an advocate for reproductive rights, I initially felt ashamed about having an abortion and told family and friends we had lost the baby. But I am stronger today than I was when I had my abortion, and I can no longer remain quiet. This is my story.

I have been an advocate for reproductive rights in my professional career. Meeting with legislators, planning events, and taking to social media to convey support for abortion access was part of my daily job for over three years. I knew the facts and fought passionately for the cause, but I did not know how much I would rely on that right until I got pregnant myself.

After two years of marriage, my husband and I wanted to start our family. We got pregnant quickly and began making plans for our baby. As the 20-week ultrasound approached, we were excited to find out our baby’s sex and hear that we were well on our way to holding our healthy baby. Instead, the doctor came into the exam room after the ultrasound and informed us that our baby was sick. She had a genetic anomaly so severe that she would not survive the pregnancy. Devastated, my husband and I went home.

After processing what just took place, we knew we needed more information. It was a Friday afternoon, so, over the weekend, we scrambled to get a second opinion and find all the information we could while we held each other and cried.

This rush and stress to get the information we needed was increased by the closing window of being able to terminate the pregnancy at 24 weeks, if we chose to do so. We wanted to make an informed decision but knew we had a limited amount of time as I was now in my 21st week. Using our connections, we were able to get a second ultrasound with a specialist — we hoped for the best, but the previous diagnosis was confirmed. Our baby would not survive, and, as she grew, she would likely suffer.

My husband and I sat down with our doctors and talked about the possibilities, but all roads led to the fact that I would never hold my daughter. We would not be celebrating her first steps, her first day of school, her wedding day, and her own pregnancies. Faced with this stark reality, I was thankful to have the option to terminate the pregnancy — a decision that I could make in an informed way with my doctor.

I was also fortunate to have had the resources necessary to make the right choice for our family. I had financial means and health insurance coverage, as well as a supportive husband. Some women are not so lucky. Their life may be threatened by an abusive partner who does not support their decision; they may not have health insurance; or the costs of the procedure as well as any travel expenses might be too much for them to cover. For my husband and I, the decision to terminate the pregnancy was the most difficult of our lives but one that we were so thankful we could make.

Today, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is trying to take this right away from women. If the bill they are considering becomes law, the abortion I had would be banned and my doctor’s hands would have been tied. My husband and I would have had to travel to another state and try to find a doctor who could help us — a position no one should have to contend with at such a traumatic time. The other option would have been to carry the pregnancy to term knowing my baby was dying inside of me.

Thinking of my daughter suffering, I knew that ending the pregnancy was the right decision for her and myself. Having to carry her for another 5 months knowing I would not hold her, knowing people would ask when I was due and what sex she was all the while knowing she was suffering and I was getting closer to losing her would be too much to bear.

The days after the abortion were emotionally painful. I knew the decision to have an abortion was the right one for me and my daughter, but I was afraid of how others would react and I was not strong enough to combat any negative comments. Not being able to speak openly and honestly about what happened and about our decision made the whole process much more difficult.

No one — no government, no person — should dictate my health care decisions or tell me what I can do with my body. People who decide to have an abortion need support, not vilification. We need to be able to talk about our decisions without judgment and hate. We need policies that support us in making an informed decision with our doctors, not legislation that limits our options and forces us to make quick decisions.

I can no longer remain quiet. I can no longer allow people to judge a decision that I made in consultation with specialists and that I know was best for my daughter. I can no longer allow for the options that I was given to be taken away from other women who may face devastating circumstances.

I love my baby and wish she were here with me today, chasing after her little brother. But that is not possible or what was meant for her. I am thankful that I was able to make a decision that was what was best for me and, I believe, best for her.

(We thank Kate for her willingness to share her story and respect her decision to remain anonymous)

We are the ACLU’s Pennsylvania affiliate, defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through litigation, advocacy, and community education and outreach.

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