When you’ve experienced infertility first-hand or worked with patients with a medical diagnosis that impacts their fertility, you see both pregnancy and abortion through a different lens. Unfortunately, to the public, there seems to be a misconception that abortions are for careless teenagers or irresponsible women. What is often overlooked, however, is there are many cases where the patient wants nothing more than to have the child they are carrying. Still, a medical concern prevents the pregnancy from progressing safely.
Countless infertility patients have had to terminate a pregnancy because it was ectopic, a pregnancy in which the fetus develops outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. This happens to 1 in 100 women and is more common than most realize. An ectopic pregnancy can’t proceed normally. The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding if left untreated.
There are also cases of the baby being diagnosed with a trisomy. Trisomy such as 18 and 13 are among a few congenital syndromes typically described as “incompatible with life.” Trisomy 13 occurs in 1 in 16,000 live births, and trisomy 18 occurs in 1 in 5,000; survival statistics for both diagnoses are poor.
There are also unimaginable situations such as stillbirth babies. This is when a baby dies in the uterus. This can occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy before a pregnant person goes into labor, but a small number occur during labor and birth. In the United States, stillbirth affects about 1 in 160 pregnancies yearly.
Many factors influence or necessitate a decision to have an abortion. They include but are not limited to contraceptive failure, rape, incest, partner violence, and illness during pregnancy. In addition, pregnancy complications, including bleeding from placenta previa, preeclampsia, and cardiac or renal conditions, may be so severe that abortion is the only measure to preserve a woman’s health or save her life.
All of these scenarios have happened to women who have undergone fertility treatment hoping to have a family. They are desperate to become a mother and are heartbroken that the pregnancy is not proceeding as they wished. Therefore, terminating these pregnancies is something that no one, including the patient’s medical team, takes lightly.
We must reframe abortion as an essential component of women’s health care. Like all medical matters, patients and their health care providers should decide to end a pregnancy medically. These women are entitled to privacy, dignity, respect, and support like any medical condition and patient.
As we look toward the future and navigate this new landscape around abortion, we must stress that everyone can choose what’s comfortable for them. If you’re religious and feel abortion is “wrong,” that is your right as much as someone else’s right not to carry a pregnancy to term. No one is “pro-abortion” as much as they believe every individual has the right to full autonomy over their reproductive health.
Ultimately, everyone should also be able to access preventive, reproductive, and sexual health services. Healthcare needs to be exempt from political interference and replaced with the patient’s personal beliefs and what her physician advises.
Written by Fairfax Surrogacy Contributor, Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo. She is a Freelance Writer and avid Women’s Health Advocate. She is a Forbes Women Contributor and has had pieces included in Time magazine, Parents Magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy. As an infertility subject matter expert, she has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR, FOX, NBC, and BBC America, and was featured in the documentary, “Vegas Baby.” Her blog, “The 2 Week Wait” was awarded the Hope Award for Best Blog from Resolve: The National Infertility Association and was also named the “Best IVF Blog” by Egg Donation Friends.