Senate Bill 1180 would restrict abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy in Tennessee. As someone who found herself needing a second-trimester abortion, I want to share my story in the hopes that readers and politicians will think twice about this bill.
In 2016, a little after my son turned 1, my husband and I decided we were ready to grow our family. We got pregnant right away, which sadly ended in a miscarriage. Six months later, we were pregnant again and beyond excited that God had given us a second chance to grow our family.
My pregnancy was progressing perfectly. I had made it past the first trimester and into the "safe zone." My belly was growing bigger each day, and I started feeling those faint little flutters. We took family maternity pictures to announce our pregnancy to friends and family on our Christmas card. Everything was perfect ... until it wasn't.
At 13 weeks, we elected to take a very expensive test — many women can't afford it — that can only be taken after 10 weeks of pregnancy. At 15 weeks, we found out that our baby had Down syndrome and that we were having a little girl whom we named Grace, meaning "gift from God."
To confirm the diagnosis, our doctor told us to get an amniocentesis. I wanted to have the test immediately, but it was mid-December and offices were booked and then closed for the holidays. When I finally got an appointment, I was already at 17 weeks.
The test revealed that our baby not only had Down syndrome but also non-immune hydrops. This meant that our daughter was filling with fluid, and her organs were shutting down one by one. Specialists told us it was medically impossible for Grace to survive longer than a few weeks.
I am a Christian and I believe in miracles, but I also trust modern medicine. I could not stand the thought of my daughter suffering in the one place she should feel safest. I could not bond with her longer and watch my belly grow even bigger, only to say our inevitable goodbye. I could not labor for hours to deliver our dead daughter.
My doctor warned me that waiting until she passed on her own increased my risk of infection, hemorrhaging, and even death. I didn't want to take that risk. I still had the responsibility of being a mother to my son and a wife to my husband. Suddenly I was faced with the most horrific choice of my life. I chose to end my wanted pregnancy.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. At 18½ weeks, I was unable to end my pregnancy in my own state. I was too far along to get services at Planned Parenthood, and the hospitals here denied my request. My husband and I were forced to travel to Illinois for our abortion. We were surrounded by a medical team we had never met in a city that wasn't home. On the worst day of my life, I couldn't even sleep in my own bed. I had never given much thought to the anti-abortion or pro-choice stance until Tennessee's existing laws failed me, leaving me feeling alone, scared, and, quite frankly, angry.
As Grace's mother, ensuring she felt absolutely no pain was my No. 1 priority. I remember telling my doctor that I didn't care what pain I had to endure, as long as Grace felt nothing. My doctor reassured me that the nervous system does not develop until the 24th week of pregnancy. I chose to end my pregnancy via a D&E, which would require me and my daughter to be under full anesthesia. I would feel absolutely nothing and wake up in a recovery room, and my daughter would feel absolutely nothing and wake up in heaven.
It's already extremely difficult — in my case impossible — for Tennessee women to obtain adequate medical care in our home state. It is cruel to make painful situations like mine even harder. Only 1 percent of all abortions occur after 21 weeks, and most, like mine, are medically indicated. Lawmakers should not impose political agendas on my family and my health.
Hadleigh Tweedall is a Tennessee resident who recently appeared before the state Senate regarding Senate Bill 1180.