My late-term abortion saved our daughter’s life.
Given the political climate and proposed legislation at the state and national levels, I am reaching out to show you the face of late-term abortion in the hopes that you’ll recognize the fallacies of the recent rhetoric and continue your fight for women’s rights. I am the issue. My husband is the issue. Our daughters are the issue.
We struggled to get pregnant. When other treatments failed, we decided to travel to the Czech Republic to use donor eggs. We transferred two embryos, and we later found out we were having twin girls. Every ultrasound made it more real. They had their own personalities: our little diva, Olivia, and shy cuddle bug, Catherine. We already loved them fiercely.
Our 20-week anatomy scan was on Friday, June 10. After a routine scan, the doctor took over an hour to come in. He asked me to sit down next to Peter before telling us that Catherine had problems.
The encephalocele (a neural tube defect) was the most dire. They occur in about 1 in 13,000 live births each year, and only 1 in 5 babies diagnosed in utero survive to delivery. Other issues included being a couple of weeks behind in growth, a large cleft lip/palate that was making it impossible for her to swallow amniotic fluid and regulate her sac size, and signs of fused digits.
Our doctor told us if she even made it through delivery, Cate would suffer. He referred us to a specialist, the only one in town he knew of who would perform the unthinkable, should we need it. That specialist called us that evening to tell us he wanted to do his own imaging, but her prognosis was ”grim.” That weekend is a blur, but I know we cried and did everything we could to distract ourselves.
That scan confirmed suspicions, plus we were told Cate’s cerebellum was underdeveloped and her sac was growing and restricting the growth of Olivia’s sac. Both of our girls were in danger now.
We did an amniocentesis, and while waiting for those results, we visited another specialist in Houston. He confirmed the findings, labeled her small head size “microcephaly,” had trouble even finding her cerebellum, and noted that the midline of her brain was shifted, indicating “severe disorganization.” The cleft was the width of an adult pinkie finger. The encephalocele was open and brain matter was leaking out.
Our doctors counseled us throughout the ordeal. If we carried to term, the restriction on Olivia’s sac could lead to an early delivery. If Catherine survived delivery, she would face a barrage of surgeries, starting with removing the encephalocele and placing her brain tissue back inside her skull. She would be severely disabled if she wasn’t a vegetable. And we didn’t know what an early delivery would mean for Olivia.
Our other option was a late-term abortion of one of our girls. Catherine’s death would likely mean a safe and healthy remaining pregnancy with Olivia.
On June 22, guided by ultrasound, the doctor injected a medication into Cate’s heart to stop it. When they checked for a heartbeat 30 minutes later, the silence was deafening. And then they found Olivia’s strong beating heart and we cried for Olivia’s survival and for Cate’s loss, our loss, Olivia’s loss.
I have always been pro-choice but said that abortion wasn’t a choice I would make for myself. And then I was told my children could both die if I didn’t do this. We got second and third opinions. We ran tests. None of our doctors had seen this combination of issues. It was one in a million. Almost literally. The diagnoses only got worse. We weren’t going to find later that they were wrong.
We took our daughter’s pain and suffering upon ourselves. She passed away feeling my love and hearing my heartbeat. Given the situation, I couldn’t ask for more. This wasn’t a choice of convenience, and she wasn’t unwanted. Catherine was so wanted that it will always hurt that we can’t have her. But Olivia was wanted, too. And we wanted them to actually live their lives. Quality of life is just as important as a beating heart.
Ours is the story of late-term abortion. In telling you, I hope you will take the time to consider the families that will be hurt by “personhood” bills and rally against these bills. Current laws in Texas only allows us 12 days to decide. Waiting one more day meant we would have to leave the state to do the compassionate thing for our children. With the passage of “personhood” laws, we would have been forced to watch our daughter suffer a painful death.
No matter the rhetoric being spewed, never think that we went into this with eyes closed and made our decision lightly. I promise you we did not.