There is no doubt about it, abortion is a pretty divisive subject, but it is not as cut and dried for many people as they might think. There are still many shades of grey between those who believe no abortion should ever take place under any circumstances and those who think every woman should have free and easy access to abortion services without having to justify her decision.
One of the most emotive areas is that of abortions carried out later in pregnancy. Some use the phrase ‘late-term, ’ but that has no medical, legal or scientific meaning. In fact, the very definition of ‘late’ for an abortion is contentious. Some define it as after 16 weeks, others after 20 weeks. In a 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, there were three articles about late abortion. Two articles defined it as after 20 weeks and one after 27 weeks.
The viability of the fetus is not a precise point for definition either. Many pregnancies are viable after week 27 while no baby born before week 21 has ever survived. The weeks in between are a grey area where some might survive and others will not. On some occasions, the weight of the baby is a better indicator of their chances of survival than their gestational age.
In this post, we have taken anything after 20 weeks as late.
15 Heartbreak At 32 Weeks
After having suffered a miscarriage at ten weeks, Elizabeth and her husband were overjoyed to discover they were expecting another baby. They found they were having a boy when they paid for a 3D scan and saw their son wave at them.
The genetic testing came back clear, and the first sign of a problem was at 16 weeks when the doctor told them the baby had club feet, but that wasn’t an issue because it could be fixed. Then some blood work came back with worrying results, but extensive tests and scans could find nothing wrong.
Then at 20 weeks, doctors noticed the baby’s hands were clenched but again, nothing that affected any primary organ or system. It was not until the 31st week when the baby had stopped growing entirely; doctors discovered the baby had severe issues with his muscular system and would never be able to swallow or even breathe outside of the womb.
14 Multiple Medical Issues
After one child followed by three miscarriages, Kate and her husband were elated to have another baby on the way. The 20-week scan suggested a possible problem but a follow-up 2nd level scan a couple of weeks later showed nothing wrong.
The couple was still worried so they booked another scan at 26 weeks where they were presented with a list of issues from which their child was suffering. An MRI at 34 weeks showed so many problems, the doctors said their daughter would probably not live and that if she did live for a short time, she would be in constant pain.
They decided to have an abortion at 35 weeks, and afterward, Kate and her husband held their tiny daughter Laurel, and had footprints and handprints taken. They cremated her and scattered her ashes in the ocean.
13 Sudden Bad News
Omera Rose was the name Lindsay and her husband gave to their daughter when they discovered they were having a baby girl. At the 18-week scan, doctors noticed a growth on Omera Rose’s neck and said it could be something easily dealt with or something more serious.
An MRI gave them the news that the tumor had grown into their baby’s heart, lungs, and brain. It had enveloped her head and face. Her chances of making it to viability, let alone to birth, were slim. By this time the pregnancy was nearing 24 weeks, and the couple decided to have an abortion.
After a 40-hour labor, Lindsey delivered Omera Rose. The couple dressed their daughter and held her while family members came to say hello and goodbye to her.
12 A Double Danger
After years of trying, Darla and Peter finally fell pregnant using donated eggs and discovered they were expecting twins. By twenty weeks they had named the twins Cate and Olivia, and on ultrasounds, each girl had shown her distinct personality – Olivia was their outgoing ‘diva, ’ and Cate was the quiet ‘cuddle bug.’
At 21 weeks they were told that Olivia had extensive disabilities, the combination of which the doctors had never seen before. If she made it past birth, she would face numerous surgeries with no guarantee of survival. On top of that Cate’s, amniotic sac was growing, restricting Olivia’s amniotic sac putting her in danger.
At 21 weeks and six days, an injection stopped Cates’ heart. Darla then carried both twins for a further thirteen weeks until she delivered both Cate and Olivia. The family spent time with both girls before their chaplain came to bear Cate’s body away.
11 Dilemmas Without Borders
In Canada where, legally speaking any woman can have an abortion at any point in her pregnancy, even an abortion for fetal abnormalities, it’s still not easy to obtain.
A Montreal woman and her husband discovered, at 30 weeks, that their baby boy was abnormally small and had multiple physical problems for which the doctors didn’t even have a name. They had named their son, bought his clothes and crib, and decorated his room; he was very much wanted.
The local hospital, despite the information from multiple medical experts that the baby was severely disabled and may not survive even with multiple, painful surgeries, refused her an abortion. It took until the 35th week to find a hospital that would perform the procedure.
10 Out Of State Escape
For Lindsay and Randi, the excitement of learning they were having a baby girl was overshadowed by the news nobody wants to hear. Among other things, at 21 weeks their daughter’s brain was not correctly formed, and part of it was missing. All of the vessels in her tiny heart were fused together, and she had little if any hope of survival.
Even after extensive counseling, Lindsay had last moment doubts and, thanks to family connections, was able to see a fetal medicine specialist on the morning her abortion was scheduled. He confirmed what the couple had already been told; there was no hope.
The pair had to travel to New York because the clinic in Florida where they live, was picketed 24 hours a day by pro-life protesters and they could not bear the thought of, on top of their existing agony, having to run the gauntlet of abuse if they had to walk up to the doors.
9 Additional Guilt From The Government
After multiple frozen embryo transfers and two rounds of IVF Robin and her husband, Jim were finally expecting the baby for which they had longed. At 21 weeks they were told their daughter, Grace, had a condition that had a 100% chance of her being stillborn or dying shortly after her birth.
As if deciding to have an abortion was not painful enough, they lived in Mississippi which requires you to sign a form saying you have seen your baby via ultrasound and heard its heartbeat. You are given a package of documents explaining that you are killing your baby and then you have to wait for 72 hours before the procedure can go ahead.
In a Facebook post about her experience, Robin wrote:
“I can’t imagine a person getting to 22 weeks of pregnancy and deciding to terminate for convenience. This needs to be available for people like us — people that very much want their child but learn their child will die a horrible, suffering death if they continue to carry her. That their health will suffer.”
8 Third Time Was Not A Charm
After suffering two miscarriages, one at 9.5 weeks and one at 5, Katlyn and her husband finally started to relax when their third pregnancy got to 20 weeks.
Then, during their routine fetal scan, they were told their daughter had hydrocephalus. The doctors said she might have some damage to her brain, but it could be relatively minor, and even with the worst outcome, she would have a good quality of life.
They were told that after delivery, a shunt would be placed in their baby’s brain and they would all have to wait and see how severely her brain had been damaged. If the fluid got worse, they would deliver the baby early so she could have the operation. At 24 weeks there was no increase, and at 28 there was some. They were planning the C-Section for 34 weeks when they had a scan at 30 weeks and five days which showed the fluid had increased suddenly and so much so that their daughter’s entire brain had been crushed.
7 “Incompatible With Life”
Incompatible with life, that was the phrase the doctor used when he examined Alice in her seventh month of pregnancy. It was 1973 and the kinds of prenatal tests we have today were not available then, so it was already very late in the pregnancy when Alice and her husband discovered their first baby, a daughter, had no autonomic nervous system and would never be able to move or breathe unaided (and that was if she lived at all). Meanwhile, Alice was suffering from hydramnios, a condition where the baby does not process the amniotic fluid, and it builds up in the mother’s body.
6 Second Guessing Themselves
Sharon gained little weight in her first pregnancy and at 25 weeks had not felt him move very much but had nothing against which to gauge that.
At her next appointment, her doctor scheduled an ultrasound and Sharon and her husband marveled as the tech prodded their baby into moving and showed them his tiny face. The next day they received a call from their doctor. In a nutshell, their baby had so many defects he could not survive for long, even if he underwent multiple surgeries and interventions.
At 28 weeks Sharon’s labor was induced and she held their baby boy Kody, but afterward, she second-guessed herself until the autopsy.
The couple was told his heart was only half the size it should have been and his lungs just a quarter. His intestines, spleen, liver, and single kidney were in a large, inoperable opening in his abdominal wall. Kody had no bladder, no anus, and his kidney ducts were blocked. His legs had formed to the shape of Sharon’s stomach as he could not move due to the lack of amniotic fluid and he had a severely curved spine. The list went on but, although horrifying gave Sharon and her husband the reassurance they needed that they had done the right thing for their baby.
5 A Change Of Opinion
It was during an ultrasound in her 26th week that Rachel’s doctors first thought something might be wrong. Her daughter’s legs were in the same ‘lotus position’ as they had been at her 12-week scan and appeared to be deformed in some way. The doctor couldn’t see the baby’s hands, and she was three weeks behind in her growth.
A more detailed scan showed multiple fractures in the baby’s arms and legs, but the doctor said that it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed and the baby could live a full and productive life with her condition, osteogenesis imperfecta.
However, a second doctor, a specialist in the condition told the couple their daughter might not make it as far as birth and that if she did, she would never walk, never be able to take care of herself and that even changing her diaper would result in painful fractures. She would be in constant pain and would not live for long.
4 Ethics Approval
Alyson Draper is a corporate attorney, and between her and her husband they had six children from their previous marriages. They very much wanted a baby together and through IVF, Draper became pregnant with twins, fifteen months after their last pregnancy ended in a stillbirth.
When she was 22 weeks pregnant, the couple were told that one twin had died and the second had spina bifida. It was so severe that the baby’s brain had been pulled out of its head, forming on the back and the baby’s spine was exposed all the way down to the lumbar region. No amount of medical intervention could repair the damage, and their remaining live child would pass shortly after birth.
3 To Save A Life
Nicholas and Zachary were the names Cecily and her husband had given to the twin sons they were expecting in February. It was during a routine growth scan that they discovered one of the twins has lost his life and the symptoms Cecily had been experiencing and thought were a regular part of pregnancy, were actually signs she had severe pre-eclampsia.
Within a few days, her blood pressure had skyrocketed out of control, her kidneys were failing, and her liver was giving up. She could no longer be given pain medications because they would stop her breathing when the inevitable seizures began at any moment. If her pregnancy wasn’t ended immediately, she was going to lose her own life.
The remaining twin, at only 23 weeks and still very small, had no hope of survival, a c-section was too dangerous because of the potential for bleeding, and an induced labor could kill her. The only option was an intact dilation and extraction, a procedure that has since been made illegal under the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
2 The Struggle To Obtain An Abortion
Wisconsin couple Liz and James were ecstatic to discover they were going to have a baby. At the 23-week ultrasound, doctors learned their baby had a fatal kidney disease and would not be able to survive outside of the womb.
In Wisconsin, you have to sign a form saying you are aware of the baby’s heartbeat and you know that it has fingers and toes and, because their insurance was affiliated with a Catholic hospital, their case had to go before a panel of priests. The priests decided Liz could not have the abortion and should carry the baby to term and allow it to pass naturally shortly after birth.
1 A Genetic Blow
A genetic counselor told Jesse’s mom she was a carrier of ‘Fragile X’ and that there was a possibility her son would suffer from it. After more genetic testing the doctors told Jesse’s parents that he did indeed have Fragile X, but they were unable to tell them just how severely he might suffer from the symptoms.
The couple decided to have an abortion, and at 28 weeks the procedure was carried out. After delivering an injection to stop Jesse’s heart, his mom had labor induced; the entire process takes between four and seven days. It took five pushes to deliver Jesse’s body, and he weighed three pounds when his body was weighed.
His mom still visits him in the cemetery each week, cuts the grass on his grave and brings fresh flowers for him.
Sources: jezebel.com, theguardian.com, nationalpost.com, guttmacher.org, babble.com,.aheartbreakingchoice.com, nymag.com, usmagazine.com
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