YARMOUTH — I’ve always supported safe and legal abortion and believed each person should be allowed to make their own decisions about pregnancy without being subjected to someone else’s decision. I’d never had to consider abortion myself, however, and the only scenarios I’d been able to imagine involved an unintended pregnancy.

That all changed three months ago.

On Jan. 25, my husband and I went to what we thought would be a routine ultrasound in the 32nd week of a normal pregnancy. I am a veterinarian and he is a surgeon; we know how to read an ultrasound, and we quickly realized something was very wrong.

The ultrasound revealed that our son had lethal skeletal dysplasia – the result of a random genetic mutation. He would not be able to breathe outside of me. Additionally, his femur was broken, and there were other healed fractures. I find it difficult to convey the magnitude of grief we experienced in those moments.

The staff were very gentle and considerate, but there was no way to make his diagnosis OK.

We wanted to be clear with the providers: We knew this was a lethal condition. We would end the pregnancy. At that moment of profound pain and loss, we just needed to know the plan.

I assumed I would be admitted to the hospital that day, or maybe the next. However, that’s when we learned I couldn’t be treated in Maine. We would have to fly across the country to one of the four places that will treat patients like me.

It is hard to put into words how that realization broke me.

Three days later, my husband and I flew to Colorado for my abortion.

Our doctor was young, fresh from his residency. We thanked him repeatedly for choosing this specialty, despite the death threats that his mentor has received, and the fact that other doctors have been assassinated for providing this vital medical care for women.

While I am deeply grateful that I could access this essential care myself, it has been profoundly distressing to know that I am one of the lucky ones, that the majority of women would not be able to afford the treatment we received.

Abortions later in pregnancy are very rare. While some insurance companies cover abortion, there is no guarantee your health insurance will. Mine didn’t.

So amid our shock and grief and the scramble for last-minute plane tickets, child care for our 3-year-old daughter and hotel reservations, we had to bring money for the abortion itself: $25,000.

Advocating for others is a way we are coping with our grief. I am working with my providers here in Maine so that they are better prepared to help other patients like me. Abortions later in pregnancy are so very rare, so stigmatized and so misunderstood. We didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t know what questions to ask.

My husband and I have signed an open letter on abortionpatients.com, volunteering to share our story to counter the misinformation about abortions later in pregnancy.

For the people who are reading this and who have their own experience, please know that you are not alone in your grief. Your decisions are understood and respected. While there is a vocal minority who refuse to understand the complexity of abortion, so many people support us.

Last month I shared my story as testimony before the Maine Legislature in support of a bill requiring insurance companies to cover abortion care.

I can’t change what went wrong with my son. But I hope to help change how we treat women, who for whatever reason, need an abortion.

Mine was a very sad situation made much worse by current laws. I can’t fix what happened to me. But by sharing my experience and helping to pass this bill, I’m trying to make it better for somebody else.

I hope our elected officials will do the same and pass this bill.


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