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They terminated wanted pregnancies. After Roe, they face new pain.

Ashley Lefebvre clutches her unborn daughter’s urn each night. Sarah Halsey cherishes the little hat worn by her baby who only lived 38 minutes. Abi Frazier moved out of her home with a furnished nursery.

All of them terminated wanted pregnancies due to serious medical problems of the fetus.

It’s an aspect of abortion rarely discussed in national debates – the termination of pregnancy due to fetal abnormalities or other often life-threatening medical conditions. These interruptions often occur during the second trimester, when women have already chosen names, bought baby clothes and felt their stomachs kicking. They are very different from the more common abortions performed earlier in pregnancies.

Women say that these terminations for medical reasons do not seem to be a choice – rather they are imposed on them by the condition of the fetus they are carrying. And the constant drumbeat of new abortion bans, rulings, and news since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade reopened from raw injuries. Such abortions were already shrouded in secrecy and guilt, the women say. They fear that the path will be even more difficult for those who follow.

There are no recent statistics on the frequency of pregnancy terminations for fetal abnormalities — including genetic or chromosomal abnormalities — in the United States, but experts say it’s a small percentage of total procedures. They usually occur later than the 93% of abortions performed at 13 weeks gestation or earlier.

Following the High Court ruling, a growing number of women from this small group are coming together to support each other and share their voices. They say more people will face the same hurdles as them — traveling long distances, rushing agonizing decisions, navigating a maze of shifting abortion restrictions — with an even narrower window of care.

The vast majority of states ban abortion at some point during pregnancy, and about a dozen have exceptions for fetal abnormalities, most only for life-threatening medical conditions. Even in states with exceptions, providers may be reluctant to make medical terminations, and cases may fall into gray areas.

Gray infiltrates the entire spectrum of abortion, say women who have had these procedures.

Here are some of their stories.

“I’m so sorry. She has a fatal flaw.

When Abi Frazier was pregnant last year, she and her husband created a nursery – Cadi’s room, complete with a crib, toys and clothes. But Cadi never came back.

During Frazier’s first ultrasound appointment, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She saw movement and heard a heartbeat. The couple therefore shared the news of their pregnancy with their family.

“Surprise! We’re having a baby!” they told them, removing sweaters to reveal shirts that said “mom to be” and “rad dad.”

A chromosomal abnormality test came back normal and indicated they would have a daughter. But then, at just over 19 weeks, a doctor told them about a serious problem involving the neural tube from which the brain and spinal cord form.

Frazier will never forget his words: “I’m so sorry. She has a fatal flaw.

Her options were to terminate the pregnancy or carry the baby and wait for a stillbirth.

“I was weighing the choice, which really didn’t feel like a choice, because what I wanted was my baby,” said Frazier, now 34. year.

The decision to terminate meant facing deadlines and regulations. The doctor at a nearby clinic in Oklahoma did not provide the procedure beyond 17 weeks. Frazier traveled three hours to a clinic in Kansas with a 22-week delay.

Under state law, the couple had to wait 24 hours for the procedure after their first visit to the clinic. They got a hotel and Frazier cried nonstop. At the clinic, the staff were compassionate, she says. The people gathered outside were not. Her husband couldn’t get in, so he had to listen to the protesters on a megaphone. They parked a van with graphic images in front of the exit.

The following year, when the Supreme Court ruling on abortion was handed down, the couple had moved to a new house. There, rainbows – symbolizing babies born after loss – cover a crib sheet, lamp, picture frames and walls in a new nursery. Their daughter, Ava, was born in March.

In the couple’s bedroom is a tiny urn filled with Cadi’s ashes, alongside an ultrasound image. “She will always be part of our family,” Frazier said.

She said abortion opponents don’t understand the medical nuances behind rulings like hers.

“The choice I made was out of compassion for my daughter,” she said.

Oklahoma now completely bans abortion, with no exceptions for fetal abnormalities.

“Ending my pregnancy was the most motherly thing I’ve ever done.”

Sarah Halsey’s fifth baby lived only 38 minutes, dying in her hands.

She terminated her pregnancy last year after tests showed the fetus had a brain abnormality and other signs of trisomy 13, a genetic disease. She asked the doctor if, in the case of her baby, it was “compatible with life”.

He paused, then replied, “I’m so sorry.”

Halsey chose an induction abortion, which uses drugs to induce labor in the second or third trimester. The intention is to terminate the pregnancy and this is considered an abortion. But rarely, it can lead to a brief and unintended live birth. This is less familiar than the more commonly used dilation and evacuation surgical procedure in the second trimester. But some people with fetal abnormalities want to see and hold their babies.

It was true for Halsey – a labor and delivery nurse in Michigan. Although she knew she wouldn’t be coming home with a baby, she said, “it was really important that I gave birth to him.”

When labor ended, she held the 10-inch, 10-ounce baby, named Willow Rebecca after her grandmother and mother.

“We kissed her,” Halsey said. “We told him how much we loved him.”

Three weeks later, Halsey, 34, returned to work. It was hard; his first patient had the same due date she would have had. But she came to feel that her loss allowed her to provide more compassionate care.

Today, Halsey finds support in two online groups for parents who have terminated a pregnancy for similar reasons. She and her family recently marked Willow Rebecca’s birthday by planting a willow tree in the garden.

“We loved her so, so much that we didn’t want her to fight and suffer,” Halsey said. “Ending my pregnancy was the most motherly thing I’ve ever done.”

Doctors advised an abortion – but said they couldn’t perform it.

Firings for women who learn of fetal abnormalities have only gotten more complicated since the Supreme Court ruling in June – as Nancy Davis realized the following month, when she learned that a skull was missing from her unborn baby.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana woman was 10 weeks pregnant. She said she was told the fetus had a rare and deadly condition called acrania and would likely only survive for a short time – several minutes to a week – if carried to term.

Doctors advised an abortion, but said they could not perform it. Louisiana’s post-Roe trigger law banned all abortions except when there is a substantial risk of death or impairment to the woman or the pregnancy is considered “medically futile”. Doctors performing illegal abortions can face up to 15 years in prison.

“They basically said I had to carry my baby to bury my baby,” Davis, 36, said at a news conference in late August.

A group of lawmakers released a statement saying the hospital had “grossly misinterpreted” the abortion exceptions. Davis and his attorneys blamed the vagueness of the law, not the doctors. Acrania was not on a list of conditions considered medically futile, but the document also notes exceptions for other life-threatening abnormalities certified by two doctors. A state health department spokeswoman said a finalized list would clarify acrania.

At the press conference, Davis demanded that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and the legislature convene a special session to clarify the state’s abortion restrictions. One of his lawyers, prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, said: “There is nothing right about this situation, and lawmakers have the power to do something about it.”

At 15 weeks pregnant, Davis planned to move out of state. “Every day that I continue this pregnancy, I become more attached to the baby,” she said.

Not all women have this option. Some cannot afford to travel long distances. Jennifer Hoskovec, a genetic counselor in Texas, said it’s devastating for women to make such a difficult and complex decision only to realize that “it’s not even really a decision they made in the first place. “.

Davis said no woman should ever have to endure what she went through: “It’s a mental battle, it really is.”

“Bring her into the world and the three of you could suffer.”

For Jill Atstupenas, the end of the constitutional right to abortion was emotional — and she turned it into action.

In September 2020, she learned that she was pregnant after several cycles of in vitro fertilization. But she and her husband, from central Massachusetts, eventually learned their unborn baby had brain defects.

“I’ll never forget what the doctor said, ‘Give her birth and the three of you might be in pain,’ Atstupenas said, but in terminating the pregnancy, ‘both of you will feel the pain for the rest of your life’ lives, but your daughter would never know anything but love.

Atstupenas, 36, had an induction abortion in February 2021, at 23 to 24 weeks. The baby lived for a few moments. She and her husband stayed in the hospital for two days, singing and reading to the girl they named Hadley Maeve, even though she was gone.

More than a year later, Atstupenas sat at her computer for hours reading the High Court’s abortion decision. She was terrified for families in states with trigger laws.

She started on social media, with a Facebook post sharing her story. She included a photo of her and her husband in the hospital with Hadley.

She also wrote a blog post for a support group “TFMR Mamas” – medical layoffs. She went on a podcast. She attended abortion rights rallies in Boston with her husband.

She wrote to senators, telling them that the people who end these cases don’t “wake up and say ‘hell, I don’t want this pregnancy anymore.’

If it can influence lawmakers, it’s worth it. “Maybe they just aren’t as informed as they should be,” she said. “I just want to help people understand.”