“I don’t think we should try to get pregnant anymore,” I told my partner, two days after president-elect Donald Trump gave his victory speech at a hotel in New York City. My partner could only shake his head and look at the floor. We had been so excited about the possibility of having another child, but recent events had discouraged us tremendously.
Now that Trump is about to become president, I’m afraid to get pregnant. But it’s not because I’m afraid to bring another child into the world. It's because Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s stance on abortion — particularly late-term abortions — truly terrifies me.
Trump is strongly opposed to abortions, except in specific cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. He has pledged that he would like to ban abortion after 20 weeks and he has expressed wildly inaccurate and misleading views on late-term abortion.
"If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby," he said during the final presidential debate. "Now you can say that that's okay, and Hillary can say that that's okay, but it's not okay with me."
Trump's views on late-term abortion terrify me, in part because I briefly considered having a late-term abortion during my first pregnancy, which was extremely difficult.
I was initially pregnant with twins, but experienced complications almost immediately. I was hospitalized for a week with a severe blood infection that put my life and the lives of my twin sons in danger.
During a routine anatomy ultrasound, one of my son’s neck was measured as “too thick,” a sign that he could have Down Syndrome or a severe heart defect. I went through chorionic villus sampling (CVS), a procedure that diagnoses chromosomal abnormalities by inserting a long needle into the stomach, then into the placenta of the baby to collect DNA for analysis.
A week later, while still waiting to receive the results from the CVS, one of my twin sons suddenly died. His heart was no longer beating, and I was told that I would be giving birth to a baby that was alive, and a baby that wasn’t.
My partner and I mourned, while simultaneously continuing to focus on our remaining son and the potential complications that required additional testing. When his CVS sampling came back negative for Down Syndrome, our team of doctors focused on the possibility of a life-threatening heart condition. I was referred to a neonatal and fetal cardiologist, but not before my partner and I were prepped by my OB-GYN.
I sat in her office, tears streaming down my cheeks and my entire body shaking, as she warned me that if my son did test positive for the severe heart defect the specialists feared he had, he wouldn’t survive outside the womb. His heart would be without essential chambers and would be too small to function. Whatever few minutes of life my son would experience, would be brief and potentially painful. I would be able to hold him, but I would hold him as he died. I would watch him suffer. I would leave the hospital without a son. Again.
Whatever few minutes of life my son would experience, would be brief and potentially painful. I would be able to hold him, but I would hold him as he died. I would watch him suffer. I would leave the hospital without a son. Again.
As difficult as it was to hear about that potential scenario, I was grateful that my OB-GYN insisted I hear it. My partner and I needed to be prepared. After all, we were going to be parents, and it wasn’t just about us anymore. We had another life to think about, the life that remained after an already difficult pregnancy and loss. We needed to know all the information, no matter how terrifying or heartbreaking, to make the best decision possible for our son, our family, and ourselves.
In light of this information, my partner and I discussed a late-term abortion if the diagnosis was positive. We mapped out “worst case scenarios”— sometimes in hushed tones, sometimes through tears, sometimes while under the covers, as if this entire situation was a monster we could hide from. We decided that if our son wasn’t going to survive after he was born, we would end his life peacefully and humanely and in the only place he's ever known: my womb.
Thankfully, the diagnosis was negative and we didn’t have to face the worst case scenario, as so many parents do. Now, when we see our thriving 2-year-old toddler, we count ourselves among the extremely fortunate, but we always remember the possibilities we had to contemplate, and the peace the option of a late-term abortion gave us.
Now, though, I fear that same peace will be stripped from every single parent in the country. Trump has not only managed to spread obscene misinformation about late-term abortions, such as urban legends about mothers deciding to have abortions the day before giving birth, but has also made flippant remarks about appointing anti-choice justices that will “automatically overturn Roe v. Wade.” If Roe v. Wade is overturned, women will be forced to "go to other states" to have abortions, according to Trump.
What is already a difficult procedure to procure in the United States — a procedure that gives parents the choice to save their children from unfathomable pain and suffering — could become a thing of the past. Right now, when a mother needs a late-term abortion, she can only go to three clinics in the country to have one, and currently only four doctors in the United States can perform them. A Trump presidency, I fear, will only disintegrate what few options women currently have.
Just as my partner and I were forced to think about the worst case scenario three years ago, we are thinking about it now. What if we have another difficult pregnancy, and our future child is diagnosed with a complication that would make it physically impossible for him or her to survive outside of my body? Will I be forced to hold my dying, suffering child? Will I be made to stare at my child’s face as he or she takes their last breath, knowing he or she is in pain and probably scared and confused, because of a change in policy? Will my ability to choose what’s best for my child be stripped from me because the President doesn’t believe in my ability to know what’s best for my newborn?
What if we have another difficult pregnancy, and our future child is diagnosed with a complication that would make it physically impossible for him or her to survive outside of my body? Will I be forced to hold my dying, suffering child? Will I be made to stare at my child’s face as he or she takes their last breath, knowing he or she is in pain and probably scared and confused, because of a change in policy?
Of course, I know the chances of a fatal complication or birth defect befalling any future unborn children I may have, is relatively small. I know the percentages and statistics are on my side. If I have another child before I'm 35 years old, the risk of that child having a chromosomal abnormality is less than 3 percent. The risk of having a child with a fatal birth defect is around 2 percent.
However, I know that there isn’t a chance, no matter how small, I would ever be willing to take with my son’s life. Why would I do the same to my future child or children? Why would I roll the dice when it comes to my children's quality of life, no matter how brief that life could be?
I would do whatever it takes to save my son from an immense amount of suffering. Sadly, because of Trump and Pence’s anti-choice stance — and their promise to take reproductive rights away from women — when it comes to my future son or daughter, the only way I can completely protect them, is to not have them at all. There, and only there, is every single choice available to me.