How Pregnancy Loss Affected My Stance on Abortion
You might think that because I lost four pregnancies, I would be opposed to abortion. After all, I considered each of those pregnancies a life. I became attached to those lives the moment I knew I was pregnant. I was devastated when those lives ended. You might think I would be horrified by any woman who chooses to end a pregnancy. But I’m not. In fact, I am more supportive of a woman’s right to choose than ever before.
Two of my pregnancies were ectopic, meaning the embryo did not implant in the uterus (the first was in my left fallopian tube; the second’s location was not visible on ultrasound). I was past the six-week mark with both pregnancies when I learned they were ectopic (for reference, the new Texas law bans abortion after six weeks). I had no choice but to end my pregnancies. If they had continued, I would have died-ectopic pregnancies are the leading cause of first-trimester maternal death. With my first ectopic, I had emergency surgery to remove the embryo and my tube. That was six years ago. The scar is still visible. With my second ectopic, I received a shot of methotrexate, which is a drug that’s normally used to treat cancer (because it’s so adept at killing cells). It took weeks before I registered as “not pregnant.” I agonized over my embryo slowly dying in those weeks.
My third pregnancy was past the precarious third trimester when we found out something was wrong with our son. My amniotic fluid was nearly gone, suggesting an issue with the placenta, or a defect with the baby’s kidneys. During my two weeks of bedrest, I wondered what would happen if it was, in fact, a defect. If he was unlikely to live to birth, would I end the pregnancy? How would I survive such a decision? It turned out I did not need to face that decision. It was made for me. My son passed away on his own sometime around the 17-week mark.
When I lost my son, I considered myself the farthest thing from lucky. It’s only in retrospect that I feel grateful that he passed on his own instead of me having to choose. In her book Poor Your Soul, Mira Ptacin writes about how she had to end her daughter’s life after finding out about severe defects halfway through her pregnancy: “Their facts were incessant. Words I couldn’t pronounce. Holoprosencephaly. Images I cannot forget. Clubbed feet. Deformed spine. Collapsed skull. Broken heart.” She wrestled with her choice, a choice she never wanted to make: “I hear only one single, solitary truth about this warped, colossal calamity: that this baby just ain’t going to be. That this sweet and scary, gigantic and tiny new kind of love growing inside me won’t be developing much more. That the end of the road is right up ahead of us, or so it seems.”
When most people think of abortion, they don’t think of the many women like Mira Ptacin who have to terminate pregnancies for medical reasons. They don’t think of the agony these women would endure if they could not terminate, if they had to carry a doomed baby to term, only to watch him or her die outside the womb, after an inevitably traumatic labor. These women don’t want to abort their pregnancies. They want their babies to live, desperately. Abortion, for them, is a dreaded necessity.
Studies confirm that what these women and their partners go through is emotionally devastating. According to one study of parents coping four months after terminating a pregnancy due to fetal anomaly, women and men showed high levels of posttraumatic stress (44% and 22%, respectively). They also showed high levels of depression (28% and 16%, respectively). In another study, the risk of complicated grief (severe, prolonged grieving-usually a year or more) “was found to be especially high after termination of a pregnancy due to fetal abnormality.”
What I learned during my losses is that there are so many women out there with secret heartaches. I can’t pretend to know each woman’s reasons for needing an abortion. Even if there is no issue with the mother’s or baby’s health, I still believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe in her ability to weigh her circumstances and make the decision that is best for her. I believe she doesn’t owe anyone an explanation-she must only find peace within herself. An abortion, for whatever reason, is rarely easy. I stand with every woman facing difficult choices.
Originally published at https://alltheloveafterloss.com on September 10, 2021.