I had two days to make the hardest decision of my life, together with my husband and doctors. In two decades I’ve shared it with just a few friends and only recently discussed it fully with my children.
Many friends urged me not to tell the deeply personal story of my abortion. But I am sharing our story because I’m hopeful that our elected leaders, especially those who are chipping away at our freedoms, will pause to listen.
In 1993, our doctors told us that while our unborn son was healthy, his twin sister might not make it to term and would probably not survive childhood. I was 19 weeks pregnant when the second amniocentesis confirmed an extremely rare chromosomal disorder, Trisomy 8. At the time, it was a diagnosis so uncommon and awful that protocols necessitated repeating the test.
I learned that her condition might cause a spontaneous loss of both babies. If born, she would most likely have devastating limitations and maladies. There were also unquantifiable threats to my health if we decided to try to bring both babies into the world. The data were confusing, incomplete, and truly incomprehensible. There were no good answers.
We had 48 hours to make a decision: Terminate the pregnancy of one twin and pray that we could bring the healthy baby to term, or try to survive the pregnancy and hope for a manageable outcome with our unborn daughter — a hope not supported by medical literature.
We would likely not have another opportunity to have a second child, since this pregnancy was the happy result of years of fertility treatments. We were overjoyed to be pregnant with twins. I was 36. Our daughter was three.
Many associate abortions with unwanted or unintended pregnancies; nothing could be further from our reality. To be discussing abortion was an incomprehensible reversal of fate.
I can’t regret this decision; our wonderful son is 21 and graduating from college. Nor can I ever fully accept it. There are no right answers in such situations, just pathways to tomorrow and inevitable complexities. I can’t imagine not having had the ability to pursue a course which we and our doctors believed had the greatest likelihood of bringing one of the two babies to term.
We named our lost baby Dora, the Greek word for gift. Dora lives in my heart and my thoughts every day.
I will never know if there was a better answer. What I can say with certainty is this: There was no one better qualified or with any greater moral right to make the decision. We each must use our best judgment and we must live with the consequences.
The Supreme Court affirmed the right of individuals to make these choices for themselves more than 40 years ago, but those rights are under assault. The right to weigh our family needs, our individual values, and our own health hangs in the balance. The consequences of reversal are sobering. Had we not been able to do this procedure, it was the opinion of our doctors that there was a significant risk of losing both babies.
We weighed every scrap of information in the context of our unique situation. Others might have chosen a different course and had different considerations. I believe every family and their chosen doctors and advisers — not politicians — should have the right to make their own decision. Certainly each of us has the burden of coping with the outcome.
I don’t share our story now because it is unique; I share it because it isn’t. The voice of parents who have wrestled with these impossible situations is one rarely heard in the din of political jockeying. All our stories deserve to be heard and respected. Can good decisions be made in Congress and by the populace without hearing them?
Trish Karter is cofounder and former CEO of Dancing Deer Baking Company.