I’m a mom and I had an abortion

by Audra

May 31, 2022

I’ve been debating sharing this because it’s so deeply personal but I can’t stand by as our healthcare rights are threatened on such a fundamental level. I’ve been inspired by all of the brave people sharing their stories to help illuminate the need for abortion rights and access. I also feel like there’s a powerful de-stigmatizing happening we share, in addition to a growing understanding that abortion care is healthcare. In telling my story I don’t feel an ounce of shame, instead, my truth is that I’m still grieving. Abortion care is also mental healthcare.

When my son was diagnosed with cancer almost 11-years ago I was thrown into pediatric healthcare where I saw firsthand pervasive inequity and barriers to access. In this abortion debate we hear all about how folks care so much about protecting the lives of babies, but I don’t see evidence of that in our nation’s commitment to pediatric cancer and children’s healthcare. Ever since my son’s diagnosis I’ve committed myself to serving other families trying to navigate our healthcare system to provide the very best quality of life to their child and family. In this way, I consider myself to be very pro-life and I see universal access to healthcare to be a human right.

I was overwhelmed with joy and hope when I found out I was pregnant with my third child at age 40. This pregnancy was big for me, I had grown so much through our son’s cancer journey and I was looking forward to welcoming our third child. Due to my age I was asked to do a number of tests to screen for genetic and chromosomal abnormalities. By 16-weeks it became clear that it was likely that my baby had Trisomy-18, a rare chromosomal disorder that affects approximately 1 in 5000 pregnancies.

I consented to an Amnio and, at that point, it was clear just by ultrasound that the baby’s heart was sideways, the kidneys were fused together, and there were many abnormalities in the brain and lungs. I was immediately told by the attending physician that the baby wouldn’t survive much longer. I erupted in grief from the depths of my gut.

At this point I was given two choices; carry the baby further until it passes and then have a c-section to remove a dead baby -or- terminate the pregnancy immediately. I would have required a c-section due to medical reasons. The trauma of a c-section is hard enough, but to have one to remove a dead baby is something I couldn’t bear. I opted for the abortion.

What happened next was both astounding and traumatic to me. I didn’t have access to immediate care. My options were super limited and I didn’t have much time. Planned Parenthood was booked out for over a month and the facility was surrounded by protestors every day. Then, my health system, the conglomerate that serves the entire region I lived in, wouldn’t perform the procedure because it’s Catholic. A friend suggested that I fly to Australia. My doctor was eventually able to find a center at the local research university that serves patients in my situation but the services are hard to find because they work hard to protect their doctors and staff from threats of violence. The waiting list was long and I was approaching 20-weeks. My time was running out.

A friend of a friend called in a favor to the dean of the medical school and I received a phone call to set up an immediate appointment. There are two things I want to highlight here, the first is that it was my privilege that got me care when I needed it, even in California. The second highlight is that carrying a pregnancy for weeks knowing it’s not viable and needs to be terminated is brutal. In those weeks I had no choice, I didn’t have the healthcare I needed.

When I finally got in for my appointments, just shy of 22-weeks and just short of the deadline to where I’d be forced into major surgery, I was given beautiful and compassionate care. The physician who cared for me held the space for my grief and pain, supporting one of the most difficult times of my life. I am a mother who needed an abortion AND trauma-informed care.

Abortion IS healthcare.

I don’t think my sharing will convince the convicted of the pervasive harm of their so-called “pro-life” views and legislative aims. I don’t have hope that I can change their minds. But I do hope that by sharing my story those who are ambivalent might start to see the irreparable harm done in threatening reproductive rights and access to abortion healthcare. Abortion is a deeply personal decision, one that must be made by the patient with the support of their medical team, not legislators and opinionated neighbors. If you’re one of those people who just doesn’t get why we’re so angry and terrified, I hope that all of the brave sharing of deeply personal stories such as this one helps you see why we DEMAND to protect our rights to essential reproductive healthcare.

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!