For New York writer April Salazar, the right to abortion is deeply personal.
In 2013, Salazar and her husband made the decision to have an abortion when she was well into her pregnancy – 21 weeks gestation – after doctors discovered their son in utero had a fatal birth defect.
“It was very surprising to find myself, in my 30s, happily married and wanting to be a mom so badly, and finding myself needing an abortion,” Salazar told Yahoo Life. “No one can ever imagine until they live it, and unfortunately the people who make choices for us are the ones who will never live it.”
Salazar had struggled to conceive and eventually went through eight cycles of IUI to get pregnant the first time. After going through her first trimester, Salazar remembers breathing a sigh of relief, believing her unborn baby had gone through the most uncertain phase of pregnancy. But an anatomical scan at 18 weeks would reveal the devastating diagnosis.
“I knew we were going to see a lot of pictures of our baby. In fact, I was hugging my husband’s arm excitedly,” Salazar recalled. our baby had fatal skeletal dysplasia.”
Skeletal dysplasia is the medical term for a group of 400 conditions that affect bone development, neurological function, and cartilage growth. Many cases can be diagnosed by ultrasound, and severe cases can be fatal.
“They saw that our baby’s limbs were abnormally short and his chest was unusually small and his lungs would never develop properly,” says Salazar. “We were told that our baby would never be able to breathe on his own. In a very short time, like a few minutes, he would die of suffocation.
Stunned and devastated, Salazar listened as doctors presented options. They revealed that some people choose to terminate the pregnancy in these cases, rather than carrying the baby to term.
“I was shocked and just said, ‘I can’t give birth to a baby just to see it die.’ And my husband said without hesitation, ‘Of course not, that would be cruel,'” Salazar says. “It erased all the doubts I had. It would have been cruel for him and it would have been excruciating for us.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of abortions, approximately 93%, occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. In 2019, just over 6% occurred between 14 and 20 weeks of gestation, and less than 1% occurred after 21 weeks. About one third of the states currently have laws that prohibit abortion after 20 weeks.
As a New York resident, Salazar lived in a state where she had access to abortion care, but recalls finding a reputable clinic was difficult. “Many of the results are places that offer misleading information intended to deter people from having an abortion,” says Salazar.
Salazar also had to learn about the options available for a second-trimester abortion. She learned that a surgery called dilation and evacuation (D&E) was common, in which doctors use dilation, suction and special medical tools like forceps. The alternative is to ask doctors to induce labor for a vaginal birth.
“I ended up choosing D&E because it was actually the safest procedure than childbirth,” says Salazar.
While Salazar has always been an advocate for choice, she never planned on having an abortion. But she says she feels empowered by the decision she was able to make for herself and her family. And now, after finally becoming pregnant again thanks to the IUI and being the mother of a young girl, Salazar is horrified in a whole new way by the reversal of Roe vs. Wade.
“It’s devastating, to be honest. I have my own daughter, and it’s horrifying to think that she’s going to grow up in a world where she can’t make choices for herself that will keep her safe and healthy,” Salazar says.
Today, Salazar focuses on other women who may find themselves struggling with the decision she faced in 2013. She encourages those who need help to seek out local groups who can provide emotional support. and practical support when it comes to finding an abortion. care.
Speaking openly about her abortion is always an emotional experience for Salazar, but she is committed to using her voice to fight for all women’s right to choose.
“I think we have a very long way ahead of us now,” Salazar said. “But I think by sharing our stories, supporting each other, donating to abortion funds and supporting this type of care, I think we can eventually reverse that.”
—Video produced by Olivia Schneider