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What We Should Remember Now That an Abortion Case Will Be in the Supreme Court

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

The Supreme Court just announced via an order that they will hear the disputed case Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case in question is regarding an abortion law passed in Mississippi in 2018 that makes abortion after 15 weeks illegal, with very few exceptions. Currently the Supreme Court precedent, due to rulings in cases such as Roe vs. Wade, states may not ban abortions prior to viability of the fetus, which has been defined in court as 22 weeks or later. The state of Mississippi is asking the Supreme Court to reevaluate and reconsider the definition of fetal viability.

I thoroughly understand that this is an incendiary topic, with very passionate views on both sides. I would like to take a moment to share my story because 22 years ago I terminated a pregnancy, what would have been considered a late term termination, at six and a half months along. Based on my own prior experience, just admitting that fact will open me up to unfettered hatred from some readers. But please, before you pass judgment, hear my story.

My then-husband and I were excitedly expecting our second son. We had a name chosen, were picking out designs for our new baby’s room. All of our family and friends were excited, as well.  My pregnancy was going wonderfully, my unborn son looked healthy, everything felt perfect.

And then I developed appendicitis.

I was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy before my appendix burst.

When I woke up following surgery, my doctor solemnly informed me that they could not find a fetal heartbeat, nor had they detected any movement for hours. I tearfully begged them to check again and they did multiple times, to no avail. Eventually, my doctor gave me a very painful reality check of the very real, potentially deadly, consequences of keeping a deceased fetus inside my womb. My other two children had already lost their little brother. I couldn’t let them lose their mother, too.

Because I was over six months along, I had to have a vaginal delivery. The doctor had to induce labor. My cervix was dilated via seaweed sticks. Because of the techniques used to bring my poor deceased son into this world, it is listed in my medical records as a pregnancy termination. An abortion.

Before anyone tells me that my story is different and begins offering condolences for my loss, please consider whether you were ready to condemn me before you heard what I had been through. Did your opinion only change because you knew all the facts? 

The truth is that I didn’t have to share my story. My medical history is between my doctor and myself. We spoke and decided together what would be the best medical decision in my case. I chose to share my story because what many people consider to be black and white, cut and dry, has so many shades of gray that many people do not always consider.

What about the young girl who began developing early and was molested, but whose body is not developed enough to be able to successfully carry a child to term because she is still a child herself, and attempting a pregnancy would be likely to irreparably damage her little body, if not kill her and the baby as well? Is her story different too?

What about the woman who has discovered she has stage three cancer and will die if she doesn’t receive chemo right away, which would likely end her pregnancy, but who would not be able to survive to carry to term without chemotherapy anyway? Is her story different?

There are so many hypotheticals, so many circumstances where if you were to know the whole story, you may say that it is different, that perhaps it would be OK, if a doctor deemed a termination to be a medically necessary procedure — because we trust in our doctors to give sound medical advice.

A person’s medical history, their medical decisions are between them and their doctor.  Nobody should have to poll the neighborhood for opinions or contact their local government in order to get authorization for what could potentially be a life-saving procedure.  In many cases, such a delay could be fatal.

Nobody beyond those directly involved knows a patient’s medical history or their story unless they choose to share it. When we don’t know the whole story, when we choose to form opinions without all the facts, lives are put at risk and it is a slippery slope. Once you start taking away rights for some, it isn’t long until there are no rights left for anyone. Once you make blanket judgments that certain medical procedures should never be done, you victimize those who truly need the procedure.  Where does that leave those like me, who could have died if they hadn’t terminated their pregnancy?

And who gets to decide what is and isn’t medically necessary? Shouldn’t it be the doctors, those who have gone to medical school and are familiar with the patient’s medical history?  The politicians and judges don’t personally know all the patients or their stories.  Please leave medical decisions to those personally involved and those best educated and equipped to navigate them. 

I know there are some people who are so adamantly against abortion that they honestly believe it is never acceptable to have one under any circumstance, and that they are elated that Roe vs. Wade is being challenged in the Supreme Court. But I also know that I likely would not be here today if I did not have my termination, and I wholeheartedly pray that the Roe vs. Wade decision stands so that women like me don’t have to die waiting for others to decide their fate simply because other people refuse to see all the shades of gray.

Lead image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: May 20, 2021
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