Abortion After 20 Weeks

A few days ago, I received an email from one of the many pro-choice organizations I follow. The email was in panic mode:

“URGENT! Your signature needed! Our reproductive rights are being threatened again!”

Two days ago, Congress passed a bill banning elective abortion after 20 weeks gestation. “Elective,” meaning not due to conditions dangerous to the mother (such as preeclampsia or eclampsia), or fetal demise, or fetal malformations that are incompatible with life. Those are still possible. Just not, “I don’t want to have this baby.” I haven’t read the full text of the bill, so I don’t know what other exceptions there are. Stay tuned.

I took a deep breath and wrote a letter, but not the kind they wanted or were expecting.

You see, I have a lot of personal history surrounding both abortion and fetuses, and from where I stand, it’s not so simple. Truth be told, it’s never simple to curtail any life, no matter how tiny or how tenuous.

When I was a 16 year old virgin, in 1970, I was drugged, dragged into a dark basement, and raped so violently that after two reconstructive surgeries my nether parts are still not normal. I ran away, partially because the much older man who did the rapes was then sharing me with his friends and as a young person with Asperger Syndrome I didn’t know what to do, and partially because my mother’s abuse escalated around that time, probably due to my increased vulnerability. I fled from Massachusetts to California, where instead of peace and love I found more rape.

I missed a couple of periods. My breasts were swollen. I had no idea what was going on, since there was no such thing as sex education in the schools at that time, and my parents were phobic about anything having to do with sex. I went to a mobile street clinic and discovered I was pregnant.

Being California, there were choices. I could have the baby and keep it; I could have the baby and give it away; or I could have an abortion. I couldn’t fathom either of the first, so I settled upon the latter.

My pregnancy was past 11 weeks by the time I discovered it. California law required that pregnancies over 12 weeks be terminated in the hospital rather than the clinic because of the different technique necessary and the increased danger of perforation of the uterus. The soonest they could schedule me was in two weeks, at almost 14 weeks of pregnancy.

I’m glad they did it in the hospital, because they knocked me out. All I remember is the OB resident coming to see me afterward in tears, ranting at me about “people thinking they can use abortion as birth control.” I had no idea what he was talking about, or why he was so upset.

Fast forward to 1988.

I was a second year resident in Pediatrics at a big city hospital. My Neonatology rotation included participation on the Perinatal Ethics Committee, which deliberated on matters concerning difficult pregnancies and how to handle them.

There was a woman in her fifth month of pregnancy on the inpatient Obstetrics ward. She was 38 years old and had been pregnant already many times, and had miscarried every time. Her underlying problem was high blood pressure, which prevented proper blood flow to the placenta. She routinely miscarried between 18 and 24 weeks. At that time, and mostly until this day, for specific reasons, 24 weeks was considered the lower limit of fetal viability. Efforts to work around those limits are ongoing, but for the most part not practicable.

But she desperately wanted her baby. The perinatal team knew her well and liked her in spite of her challenges. They felt that if it were technically possible to save her baby, then we had a mandate to do all we could to deliver her a living child.

Now, this lady was no married, upper class, healthy white person. She was black, intellectually disabled, and chronically ill with severe hypertension due to lupus. She was unmarried, lived in a rough part of town, and had a criminal record for theft. In other words, a high-risk prospective parent under any circumstances, and especially for a very premature delivery. What was the prognosis, really, for her to safely and effectively parent a tiny preemie who would, if she survived, need intensive care in the hospital for months and intense home care for years afterward? Not so good. We debated the issue for hours and hours. The lady really desperately wanted her baby, but we were literally not certain we could deliver a viable baby for her, and certainly not a healthy one.

What should we do?

One thing in favor was stress. Normally we think of all kinds of stress as undesirable. We’re always thinking up new ways to combat stress in our lives. But stress is the premature baby’s friend. Stress in utero leads to increased stress hormone production by both mother and fetus, and this speeds the maturation of the fetal lungs. That was one good thing. After the lungs, the greatest challenges are the kidneys, and the skin. In utero, the placenta takes care of fetal waste, but undeveloped kidneys are something we have not learned to adequately deal with on the outside. Likewise, no need for skin inside, but here in the big world, without skin we quickly dehydrate and without its protective barrier, bacteria get in and wreak havoc.

These things don’t finish their development until the middle of the 23rd week. Our job was to keep this lady pregnant until the end of that week, if possible.

The plan was to do thrice-daily ultrasounds of the maternal-fetal circulation. Her problem had historically been that because of her hypertension, her placenta would become calcified, leading to a net reversal of blood flow so that instead of her blood going to the fetus, the blood flow became reversed, so the fetus became starved of oxygen and died. We put her on complete bed rest with high levels of supplemental oxygen, to keep the pregnancy going until that precious 24th week, at least.

In our cutting-edge neonatal ICU we boasted well over 90% survival at 26 weeks, unheard of at that time. That’s because our hospital pioneered the use of pig surfactant, a substance that, when blown into the stiff lungs of a tiny preemie, caused those lungs to become suddenly functional. It was nothing less than miraculous.

(Part of that miracle is that it was discovered by an Orthodox Jewish postdoctoral fellow, who would come into the hospital at all hours to blow a tube of pig lung secretions down a baby’s tube.)

This almost entirely eliminated the biggest barrier to survival of premature babies, the lungs, unmasking the next big challenges, which were and still remain, skin and kidneys. (We don’t have artificial substitutes for either kidneys or skin, but believe me, they’re working on it.) So we knew that if we could get this little girl past that 23rd week, between the stress and the surfactant we’d stand a pretty good chance for having her grow up.

The neonatal team was on call for the moment the blood flow in her placenta reversed. If she made it to 24 weeks, we’d deliver by Cesarian section and then, if she breathed spontaneously or with minimal intervention, we’d go all out. If she did not breathe, we would not intubate her. That was the compromise we worked out.

As it turns out, she never made it to 24 weeks. At 23 1/2, placental blood flow reversed. We had a quick conference and reconvened in the delivery room, where the fetus was removed by Cesarian section and handed off to the attending neonatologist, who happened to be me.

Squirming in the surgical towel they handed me was the tiniest human I have ever seen. I placed her on the scale: 325 grams, about a third of a pound. I’ve had burgers bigger than that! Her eyes were open, and she had all her fingers and toes. She was perfect.

As I laid her very carefully on the cold scale, a hole opened in her tiny face and a huge wail came out! She cried lustily, and I shrugged as I handed her to the NICU nurse.

“She wants to live,” I observed.

“Damn right she does,” said the nurse protectively, placing her in the warm incubator. “Let’s roll!” And they took her to the NICU, where she endured many challenges but never gave up.

I followed her until she was nearly 3 years old, then lost track. She didn’t have it easy. Her mother predictably dropped out of the picture, but her aunt took over and did a great job with her. She never had any of the really disastrous preemie problems (brain bleeds, oxygen toxicity, gut problems, sepsis.) We figured the stress she endured prenatally might have helped. Or maybe, as in the Jewish way of thinking, her soul really, really needed this particular vehicle in order to accomplish its mission.

No matter. After holding that little tiny life in my hand, watching her hang onto that life for all she was worth and actually grow up, there’s no way I’m going to say that a 20+ week fetus does not feel, or is not alive.

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62 Comments

  1. This is a powerful story that shows the complexity of the abortion issue and why pro-choice needs to be tempered with boundaries and limits. I too think the cut off at 20 weeks for elective abortions is reasonable. You’re sharing your story of how you came through and grew stronger and wiser through that experience is inspiring. ❤
    http://www.meinthemiddlewrites.com

    Reply
    • Thank you, Mary Lou! I’ve been trying to write this for years and years. I guess I have the abortion rights people who sent me that email to thank for finally giving me a framework in which to set down my thoughts.

      Reply
  2. Completely agree, Laura. Your personal experience and story proves the point. I’d say the same. Working in a nursery and on a maternity floor years age was an eye-opener. I was assigned my same age mothers who put their healthy babies up for adoption. Their choice to stay with a family away from their hometown during the pregnancy, have the baby, and return to live with parents and continue with work or school. Seemed the norm back in the late 50s-early 60s. Christine

    Reply
    • Hi Christine! I’m not at all opposed to early-term abortions. I’ve had a 10 week miscarriage, and sure enough, the embryo looked exactly like an embryo. I was bummed about losing it, but I didn’t feel like it was a “person.” Very different for a second trimester fetus, though.

      I had an acquaintance in high school who got pregnant by her boyfriend. Rather than being sent away to have her baby and come home sad and silent, her parents welcomed the baby and the boyfriend as family members. They were not forced to marry (the other choice kids had back then.) I went to a party they threw to welcome the new baby. It was as far from my own family’s take on life as maybe Mars. I never even told my parents.

      Reply
      • Agree again, Laura! The high school acquaintance story is heartwarming! It would have been the same for me with my first pregnancy (until I married the father). My aunt & uncle were happily going to help me raise the baby and get back in my feet! Loving family support back then. We even had a high school teacher who helped pregnant unwed girls find supportive homes to stay during pregnancy until the baby’s birth. Christine

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        • Wow, that’s amazing! While I’m not a fan of children having children, I’m sometimes very pleasantly surprised when things do work out. So glad you got to keep your baby! Some of the saddest people I’ve ever seen are girls and women who have, for reasons of circumstance, had to give up a child. I’ve met some teen moms who did great with lots of solid support. And of course I’ve met others who were left to flounder and predictably ended badly for everyone. Love really does transform lives!

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          • Yes, definitely! Abortion was not an option for me! I wanted the baby, no matter what! My family doctor told me to wear “ big, bulky sweaters” to hide the “baby bump.” Support every step of the way! Christine

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  3. I just wanted to share a story and tell you why I am on the same page.
    In 2001, I delivered a baby girl at 18 weeks and 5 days gestation. I had an unbelievably complicated pregnancy and spent several weeks in the hospital with hyperemesis and unexplained bleeding until finally, with a hematocrit of 6.5 and symptoms of septicemia, I was transferred by ambulance to the local trauma center and induced to save my life. I held my baby girl, who weighed just 9 ounces and let her go.

    I fight for pro-choice, but I absolutely support the post-20 week elective abortion ban. At just under 20 weeks I delivered a baby I didn’t get to take home. Nobody can tell me she wasn’t anything but a child.
    just wanted to send hugs and share support!

    Reply
  4. BirdLoverInMichigan

     /  October 5, 2017

    What a profound story of an encounter with a tiny child.

    Thank you for describing the humanity of that little one. The world so often turns away from these defenseless children and instead dehumanizes them. They are what we once were.

    Someone needs to fight for them as they’re utterly helpless. They need respect and love, too.

    Reply
    • Hi Bird Lover,

      This is my personal opinion. I would not force it on anyone else. While I don’t feel comfortable fighting for elective abortion after the first trimester, I also can’t “fight for the rights of the unborn,” because I don’t believe in forcing my personal beliefs on others. This is sometimes difficult for others to understand. And I thoroughly, 100% do fight for the right to terminate first trimester pregnancies.

      Reply
      • BirdLoverInMichigan

         /  October 5, 2017

        I fight for the civil rights of the preborn.

        I offer no apologies because this is a human being at any stage of development, and therefore I’m a proLife feminist. I support Feminists for Life and am glad to be a member.

        After all, all of us, even those employed as abortionists, grew in our mother’s wombs. In fact, abortionists celebrate their own birthdays despite the violence they commit against others completely powerless against their weaponry. Irony anyone?

        My mother and her doctor may have had the physical power to rip me apart, but they didn’t have the right to kill me. I won’t be silent while children are being tortured and killed for the crime of simply existing. Their parts are sold for profit, yet they’re often deemed as being sub human and worthless.

        Also, I’m disabled and have been told I should have been aborted because of my connective tissue disorder by a kindly naturopath who originally worked as a pathologist. The audacity of people cool with child dismemberment never ceases to amaze me.

        How dare anyone dismiss my life. Or any other child’s life, either. No, this is a civil rights issue and I cannot remain silent about it.

        🌹

        Reply
  5. Laura, I could never imagine you have gone through so much pain when you were 16. How can people be so ruthless?

    Regarding abortion- yes it is a grey area. Though I do not think it is a method of birth control and it comes with a huge karmic debt, I feel there are times when it becomes the only choice.

    In USA and other western countries, unwed motherhood is not frowned upon but in India it is something that leads to social ostracization. For Indians who value social opinion so much, there is no choice except abortion or marry the person.

    Reply
    • Ashu, thank you for chiming in! You have a special perspective. People from the Western bloc are, in these days, accustomed to see young girls becoming single mothers. Indian girls must have an especially difficult time because of the prevalence of rape. In my day and time, no matter how it happened, rape was the girl’s fault, so you just did not tell. You dealt with it however you could, and I imagine it’s the same in India. Is abortion at least legal there?

      About that karmic debt– I’ve been told that I’m very fortunate to get “instant karma” in this life: having the abortion, then losing my first pregnancy within marriage. And other things, all the time in fact, which often makes my head spin! I’m told that’s a sign that I only have one or at most two incarnations to go. I hope that’s true!

      I’m glad to see you here. I’ve missed you.

      Reply
      • Hi Laura,

        I read all your posts and click like but I do not comment at times. Reading your posts tells me where you are and what is happening in your life.

        Regarding our karmic accounts, at times past lives debt is the only explain nation we can give for suffering some uncalled injustice.
        I cannot help wishing that Karma catches up with your tormentors who exploited a young, vulnerable girl.

        Abortions in the first trimester for medical reasons are allowed. We Indians have used abortions for frivolous reasons as wanting a ‘male’ child and such things happen now too and under the table.

        Stay blessed. I hope good health and happiness stay your companions in your entire journey.

        Love and light,
        Ashu

        Reply
  6. sex line stories

     /  October 6, 2017

    You amaze me! You’ve been through so much….i never wanted kids. At 32 I was pregnant. I decided I didn’t want to be a mum. So I booked into a clinic. It was very early in the pregnancy. I was going to Amsterdam that wkend. So I went. On the way back I had a miscarriage in the airport….rhe thing that surprised me was that when the choice was taken away. It made me think about if I actually did want a kid…..i did. I just didn’t know it because I’d grown up with a mum saying having kids was the worst thing she ever did…..now I have a little boy who’s five. He’s my world. I had and brought my son up alone. I think women have the right to choose what they want out of their own body. I get there needs to be some rules but they should fall in favour of women’s choice. Not men in an office making decisions for them!

    Reply
    • Wow, what a story! Sounds like your embryo was very self-defining, like you! “She thinks she’s gonna get rid of me, eh? Well I’ll show her! I’m bailing the fuck outta here!” (Sorry, I just had this mental movie when I read your comment.)

      That’s so cool you have your son! I’ll tell you, with the heartache I’ve had from my son’s father, I wish to hell I’d raised my son single.

      And in fact, this bill was drafted by 13 MEN without even consulting women no debate. Although I agree with it in principle, I’m horrified at the way it was, er, conceived.

      Reply
      • sex line stories

         /  October 6, 2017

        I was 6 mth pregnant when ex had an affair. My brother gave me some advice. And ìm glad I flowed it….it was this. Don’t ask ex for a thing. Don’t force him for money ECT. Find a way yourself. Don’t stop ex seeing son. Let him make the choices. Because he will never be able to say you stopped him seeing son or you were after money…..he never asked to see his son. Plus I don’t have him in my life at all. My son knows no different. The day will come when I can look in the mirror and feel good about what I did. He never will and will have no excuses. No matter how hard it is doing this on my own it’s worth it. So I can Imagine how hard it is having to deal with all the bullshit from an ex where your son is concerned

        There’s a surprise 13 men!!! Bloody annoys me grrrrrr

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  7. I’m pro choice, however, yes, there has to be a line somewhere. I think a woman can make up her mind in 20 week’s time, IMO.

    How have you been? I’ve taken a bit of a break posting, as I want to get into horticulture therapy for a career, and gave some studying to do!
    I did miss my blogging buddies, tho. Can’t help but pop into the reader occasionally 😉😉

    Reply
    • I mostly agree, but in medicine and ethics nothing is absolute.

      Glad you’re back! Horticultural therapy is wonderful. When I was a medical student, the VA hospital in Vermilion had a residential wing for vets who would otherwise be homeless. They grew a huge garden and raised cattle, poultry, and pigs for their table. They also did a gigantic and gorgeous formal flower garden and topiary! I doubt it’s there anymore.

      I must thank you for turning me on to The Hidden Life of Trees. It completely changed my experience of the forests that I live in. Mostly I’m sad that the timber industry tries to say it’s just another kind of crop to be managed, when what we now have isn’t a working forest at all, since nothing gets older than 40-60 years without getting cut. No time to build relationships!

      Reply
      • I’m learning about so many applications for horticulture therapy (HT)… VA hospitals, prisons, children’s hospitals, hospice, retirement homes, rehabilitation centers… the list goes on! I’ve always had a tender spot for the elderly, so that is where I’m going to focus, however I’m open to what flies my way.
        My classes start in January, at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, and are mostly online, with a few weeks of face-to-face for each class. Oakton College is sponsoring it as college credit and they are nice enough to only charge in-district rates! 😁 I’ll have my 12 hour certificate in December.
        I’ve also looked into a class for Shinrin-yoku / Forest Bathing. Not like you really need a class, however I want to be able to lead others in exchange for money…. I should be educated, in that case 😉
        Yes! The Hidden Life of Trees blew my mind also! That book, along with something inside of me that pulls me towards the trees is the proof (to me) that Shinrin-yoku can be a great help with stress, healing, finding happiness… do I need to go on?? 😄
        I never knew there was a name for the feeling of oneness with the forest, I kinda took it for granted…
        On a completely different note… we decided to go to Galveston, Texas for our late December trip. Harvey wasn’t as harsh on the island as it was to Houston and all its concrete that caused the flooding. We hope to get some fishing in and I really want to try ‘crabbing’! 🦀 It looks like fun… tie a chicken piece on a string, throw in brackish water, wait for tug, slowly pull in and net. Sounds simple… 🤔 in theory! I’m YouTube educated. Ha ha!

        I hope you’re doing better than I had last heard. Are you still in Arizona? How’s Atina? I hope she has continued to fight against her demons. I don’t want you to be alone. You both need each other. Sometimes, I feel dogs are better companions than humans 😉
        Breck just had to have ACL (CCL in dogs) surgery. His asshole brother wiped him out while playing. He had no signs of being predisposed. Having to mind a dog 24/7 reminds me why I didn’t want children 😆😉 Only 7 more weeks…. gaaaaa! 😲

        Take care, My Friend 😁

        Reply
        • Poor Breck…must be awful having to keep him from tearing around with his bro.

          I guess I do Shinrin-yoku like, all the time. I live in forests. It’s crazy how different the older growth communities are from the newly planted ones….the book has cleared that mystery up for me! I was crowing about the whole signalling thing to my son, who specializes in subcellular signaling…and of course he knew all about forests. Kids.

          Atina has, unfortunately, hit the bad place on the curve where her functioning bit of kidney tissue is no longer sufficient to get rid of waste. I just had to start subcutaneous fluids at home, er, at van. It helps her immensely, but it’s a sign of things to come 😓

          Reply
          • That’s so kewl that your son knew about the cell signaling… I assume he studies it in humans, right? Still its a great thing that other disciplines can relate it to trees. 😁
            Really crazy question… do they do dog kidney transplants? Surely, I’m not the first to think of it. I can assume it would be a million dollars, if they even could.
            I wish both of you the best. She has the best doctor mom taking care of her 😁

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            • Sigh….they do CAT transplants….but dogs are finicky, surgery tends to go badly, and they only have a 40% success rate at UCSD where my reference article came from. CSU also was discouraging. And no doggie dialysis, either! Plus the transplant costs around $20k, for a 40% success rate, and that’s in the first year, goes down after than 😣

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  8. I think its a very tough one, I don’t know the full debate, but I also think certain weight should be lent to abuse victims as well for deciding over the 20 week mark. However this could open it up to potential abuse. I do agree that most mothers, by 20 weeks wouldn’t think of terminating their baby. I will always remember a story I read of a 9 year old girl that was admitted to A&E they found she was pregnant and her abuser was her uncle (I think mother’s brother) she was close to 23 weeks.

    Reply
    • That is so sad. I’ve seen quite a few cases like that, one a 12 year old who showed up in labor with twins (by her grandfather!) These poor washes waifs need so much help and support, which in the US they for sure don’t get. At 23 weeks, they have only to wait the one more week, and then their fetus can be delivered and passed on to the neonatal folks. At that fetal age they would want to deliver it anyway, and abortion at 23 weeks is really gruesome, let me tell you. I wouldn’t want to see that happen. The little girls certainly don’t need to go home with babies! And their poor fetuses might have a chance at life with some kind stranger….

      Reply
  9. Laura,
    As a mom of three, I agree with you. At 20 weeks I could feel my babies kicking and they kicked even more when they did not like a sound or feeling. My one hated the heart monitor. Even though I choose to have all three of my children I think that up to 20 weeks the parents can choose and after 20 weeks they should be able to choose if the condition of the fetus is one in which it will not survive outside of the womb.

    The technology today is amazing. I knew of someone who delivered at 21 weeks. There were many ups and downs, yet today she has a beautiful boy who is interested in the entire world. The age of viability has move up. I think the only two options at that point are to have the baby or give the baby up for adoption. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
    • I know what you mean. I started feeling life at 16 weeks. After that it’s like, get away from my baby!

      I sure there are circumstances like for instance young girls who’ve been raped or somehow the pregnancy isn’t revealed until after the age of viability, when someone might want to abort. I’m trying not to be judgmental, but inside I feel like you do: If the mother isn’t able to decide before 20 weeks, then if there’s no specific medical concern, the pregnancy should be carried to term. I would wish for a huge amount of support for this mother, because clearly if it’s a problem pregnancy, it would be cruel and unjust to leave her to try to deal with it herself. People forget that mothers who are forced to carry a child against their will can get suicidal. And I’ve seen proposals for laws that prosecute pregnant mothers who attempt suicide! Where’s the justice in that? So I feel like if I’m going to tell a mother that she can cannot abort a second- or third-trimester fetus, I’d better be prepared to provide her with ongoing counseling and support. I hate the thought of legislating reproduction, but this has made me really think.

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  10. I think you state your case very clearly! If a person is saying they’re “pro-life” then they need to actually care for the life that is born. I know not everyone finds out they’re pregnant in a timely fashion, perhaps because of the use of contraceptive drugs (injection, pill, implant) but agree that 20 weeks is quite a long time.

    Although, a friend of mine got pregnant, and then her boyfriend was found to have child porn/abuse images on his computer and it went to court. Trust and relationship completely broken, and she made the heartbreaking decision that the safest course of action was to have a termination. She didn’t want anything to do with this bloke, but if she’d had his child, and he’d been found not guilty (I don’t actually know what happened) then he would have had the right to access, and it would have felt incredibly awkward and uncomfortable for her. Not a good place to be in. I don’t know how far along she was in her pregnancy. I just know that it was a horribly messy situation to be in, which is probably where all women who decide to make that choice find themselves. A little compassion and empathy can go a long way.

    Reply
    • So glad to see you piping up here with this excellent example of how things can turn so very sticky! Yes, depending on one’s country and its laws, having a child with a bad bloke can mean being tied to him for life. And if he’s a perv, or an abuser, generally the burden is on the mother to convince the courts why he should not have access to the child.

      I’ve also seen more cases than I’d like of girls getting pregnant in order to create a “bond” with the boy, eg, to put him in a bind. When my son became sexually active I sat him down and told him many graphic stories about what can happen to a boy’s life if he gets a girl pregnant: no college, no profession, goodbye dreams, hello messy diapers. I reinforce that every once in a while….

      My best friend in high school got tricked by an older man who pretended to use a condom but removed it, and she got pregnant. She immediately wanted to abort, but he kept showing up at the clinic and insisting it was “his” baby and he wanted to marry her (What about whether she wanted to marry him????) Eventually it was too late and she had the baby, who of course turned out to be a delightful little girl, but it threw my friend’s college plans (actually, veterinarian plans) out the window and she had to leave the state and go live with her parents in order to escape the sperm donor’s harassment.

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  11. It took me 2 days to read your post and the following comments b/c i kept breaking down in sobbing tears ( damn brain). This is a difficult subject, to say the very least. I never wanted children b/c of my childhood sexual abuse ( didn’t want to risk that happening to another ) so i doubt i feel the issue as deeply as those who have been pregnant or became mothers. Nevertheless, i also believe 20 weeks is long enough to decide unless an abnormality arises or is detected after 20 weeks that would produce an unviable fetus. Doc

    Reply
    • And I thought this was hard to write! I guess it’s also hard to read….well, these tough things have to be brought out into the light, if we’re ever going to heal.

      I’m sorry you went through that. Childhood should be magical, not nightmarish. I have an urge to do terrible things to sexual abusers. To all child abusers, but especially sexual abusers, because they rob us of our whole lives. Physical abuse can be overcome, but in my experience, sexual abuse wrecks lives.

      Back to pregnancy–when I was pregnant with my son, I refused ultrasounds. He was growing fine, and if there was anything wrong with him, I’d deal with it after he came out. I thought he was a girl, but I didn’t care about that either. I felt like I’d already committed to bringing him into the world, and nothing that might be found on ultrasound would change that. The docs freaked out, which I could not buy into. He came out just fine, aside from being weird like his mom and brilliant like his dad.

      Reply
  12. I have two children. I agree, in general 20 weeks is a line. At the same time I want there to be flexibility for the odd cases.

    When my first child was born, I was told I’d been given

    Reply
    • There are certainly cases in which second trimester termination may be medically necessary, such as eclampsia, where the mother’s life is in imminent danger. After week 24 the solution is to simply deliver the premature baby. At that point, should the mother be unable or unwilling to care for the infant, it can be adopted out.

      I am very much pro-choice while there is nothing but a collection of cells; once they have differentiated into a tiny human who can survive outside the womb, other arrangements must be made.

      What worries me more than anything is the assault on contraception. Mrs. Sanger must be revolving rapidly in her grave.

      Reply
  13. I have two children. I agree, in general 20 weeks is a line. At the same time I want there to be flexibility for the odd cases.

    When my first child was born, I was given to believe that the shots I was given in hospital were the Rh factor and MMR vaccine, since the tests showed I lacked immunity to rubella. After son #2 was conceived, the doc scolded me for “not getting the vaccine” which I believed I’d had. To make matters worse, I was a Sunday school teacher had had been exposed to rubella in the first trimester.

    I refused amniocentesis and sonogram, since I did not want to consider an abortion. I think women should have that option, but for me personally, no. The baby turned out to be healthy, baruch Hashem.

    I don’t want the government making medical decisions, especially about such sensitive and complex matters. But we need better support for mothers and infants, too.

    Reply
    • Oh my, what a scare! These diseases are making a comeback because of anti-vaxers. I’m so glad your little one turned out OK. Shame on your doc for even thinking of guilt tripping you!

      After I was married when I got pregnant I also refused ultrasounds and amnio, because by then I knew that whatever the Creator sent me, I would love and take care of. So instead of something else, I got a child so brilliant that his intelligence became my biggest challenge!

      Yes, we totally need more support for mothers. I believe the rates of child abuse and neglect would tumble if we had post partum doulas who would help the moms with the challenges of managing themselves, their children, and their households. Countries like Norway and Sweden, which have extensive post partum support systems, demonstrate great success in reducing all kinds of difficulties.

      I challenge the right wingers to come up with a program to support all the motherhood they are forcing on unwilling women! And most of those women are in demographic groups they consider undesirable anyway, so why on earth are they wanting to force them to have more babies they can’t afford to care for because they lack even basic resources?

      I worked for Planned Parenthood for years, and although I mostly worked in other areas, occasionally I’d fill in doing intake in the abortion clinic. I was struck by the numbers of women who already had many children and were faced with an unplanned “outlier” pregnancy that they simply could not afford, and they couldn’t face carrying to term in the context of family and church, and then giving up. Tears running down their faces, they signed the papers and stoic, they endured the procedure. Really heartbreaking, but it happens every day and I support their decisions. Hard stuff.

      ושמחתה בחגך, והיתה אך שמח!

      Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi says, “How can we be commanded to be happy? Isn’t happiness totally subjective? How can you legislate happiness?”

      Reply
      • After that experience with the doctor, I found my way to a practice of certified nurse midwives, who were wonderful. They were more focused on a healthy baby and mom, doing the postpartum check-ups at our home. That was in 1982, in Memphis TN of all places. They delivered in hospital with docs available but the guiding philosophy was that pregnancy was a normal, healthy process and that mom’s need support.

        Contrast that to the doc who had delivered my first using forceps because delivery was taking too long and he had a golf date! (Yes, and the gall to say that out loud in my hearing!)

        When the USA actually values women and children it will become a different, better place. Until then I will fight tooth and nail to keep contraception available and affordable!

        Reply
  14. FML

     /  October 12, 2017

    I read this post last week, and I had to think about it a lot before I could reply to it. I am conflicted about this issue. I don’t want to see abortion completely banned because there are circumstances where it is an appropriate option. On the other hand, according to the CDC there were 664,435 abortions performed in the U.S. in 2013 and that represents a 5% decrease from 2012. Of those abortions, 1.3% or a little over 8,600 were performed after 21 weeks. Those numbers should shock the conscience of even the strongest pro-choice person. I would probably feel less conflicted and concerned about the issue if it was actually a rare occurrence resulting from unusual circumstances. However, I look at those numbers and can’t help but think that later generations will look back on us and wonder how we got to a point where over 600,000 abortions per year was considered normal. I guess you could say that I think abortion should be safe, legal, and rare with a strong emphasis on rare.

    Reply
    • Those numbers are indeed shocking! On the other hand, the ACA’s requirement for universal coverage of contraceptives really made a difference. CDC has not updated their public database since 2013, but reports I’ve seen in other places reflect the continued decline in rates of abortion, which I hope is a result of increased access to contraception rather than decreased access to abortion services.

      Reply
  15. What a powerful story! Well done for sharing.

    Reply
  16. Late term abortions (after 24 weeks) are illegal in 43 states unless medically necessary. Even further, only 1.3 abortions in the United States are performed after 21 weeks and a majority of elective abortions are performed within 12 weeks of conception. I support the ban on late term abortions but why ban an abortion on a 20 week old fetus that is not typically viable outside of the womb. It is simply an attempt to take decisions away from women. This decision occurs 1.3 percent of the time which is not a lot and in the extreme minority. So the pro-life people will push further and as far as they can until women have no choice and go back to unsafe, unsterile methods of abortion.

    Reply
    • I hear you. And in fact, in the time since I posted this, the new rhetoric out of the White House that attempts to impose specific religious beliefs on the entire population has changed how I think about this. I vehemently oppose this notion that a fertilized egg is a “person!” In that model, even post-conception contraceptive methods like the IUD would become illegal.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

      Reply
    • BirdLoverInMichigan

       /  November 22, 2017

      It’s an inescapable fact we all once were preborn children. The goal of the proLife movement is to extend the protection of the law to people of all ages and sizes and locations.

      Although I understand you may not see it this way, this is our goal. It’s a civil rights issue.

      Peace.

      Reply
      • The problem with this is that your definition of “person” is a religious one, particular to your own religion. My religion does not share this belief. Why should you be able to limit my rights based upon a religious conviction that is by no means universal?

        Reply
  17. BirdLoverInMichigan

     /  November 22, 2017

    Well, doctor, what if someone else’s religion said anyone human under a year old isn’t a person? Should we make accommodations for them? Is it right to limit their choice to kill postnatal human life? There are some people who are advocating for post-birth abortion for up to a year after delivery. They say it’s in everyone’s best interest, especially if a medical defect isn’t eliminated in the womb.

    My own genetic connective tissue disorder would have made me a target for these compassionate killers, of course.

    The proLife view isn’t based on any one particular religion; there are many anti-abortion atheists. It’s based on the scientific fact human life starts at conception and the moral belief it therefore is of immeasurable value.

    I understand you don’t agree.

    But we who are proLife will not remain silent or pretend the slaughter of over 55 million children in our country alone since 1973 is no big deal.

    Reply
  18. Abortion rates have hit historic lows. That’s good news! Don’t have sex- it’s that simple. However, I understand there are instances of rape. I get it. But in general, DON’T HAVE SEX IF YOU’RE NOT READY FOR THE RESPONSIBILITY! This shouldn’t even be a debate.

    Reply
  19. I just don’t understand why it’s a debate at all. The only exception, of there’s going to be an exception, is in cases of rape.

    Reply
    • I do understand that viewpoint. An upcoming post will illustrate another difficult situation that I would not have even imagined if it hadn’t happened in my own family.

      Separately from that, I volunteered at Planned Parenthood of Greater Chicago four years. My job was actually in their vasectomy clinic, but I also volunteered in the abortion clinic, holding hands. What stood out to me was that the vast majority of women who ended up there were in horribly desperate situations where their choice of whether or not to have sex had been taken away by rape, coercion, incest, and many other situations that I would never have even dreamed of.

      Before judging others, it is best to look into one’s own heart.

      Reply

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