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Abortion rights are essential, and Granite Staters deserve support and options

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Abortion rights are essential, and Granite Staters deserve support and options

Jul 07, 2022 | 5:45 am ET
By Michelle Cilley Foisy
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Abortion rights are essential, and Granite Staters deserve support and options
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Abortion rights activists rallied outside the State House in May after the leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe, which happened officially last month. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

We know 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by age 45. While that statistic does not capture all people who may need abortion care, it does mean that in all likelihood, someone you know or love has had an abortion.

Our stories are unique; our reasons for making the decision to have an abortion are all valid.

As a mother who had an abortion later in pregnancy, I started telling my story publicly this year after the enactment of New Hampshire’s first abortion ban in modern history. Some of you may have heard my daughter Kayla’s story; it isn’t easy to tell but it is important – and it has had an impact.

After banning abortions at or after 24 weeks with almost no exceptions, this year New Hampshire lawmakers approved an exception for fatal fetal diagnoses that would restore options for families like mine. My daughter never had a chance to live outside of my body. Kayla had three chambers to her heart and, to put it simply, no brain.

Seventeen years ago, at 22 weeks gestation, on Dec. 7, 2005, her father and I were forced to make an impossible decision within just a few hours of learning of her fatal anomalies discovered on ultrasound. As a mother, I knew there was no way I could continue to carry Kayla knowing that she couldn’t live. Knowing that my older daughter, who was 2½ at the time, would only grow closer to her soon-to-be sister. Going to work every day and having people congratulating me, asking details about when my baby was due and what gender we were expecting, all the while knowing we were just waiting for Kayla to die.

On Dec. 10, 2005, after several hours of labor, though she had already passed due to the medical termination, we held Kayla for several hours. She was 12 inches long and weighed 14 ounces. Her fingers and toes were perfect and her hands and feet were imprinted and hang on my wall today. A month after our abortion, we found out from our amniocentesis results that Kayla had a large missing piece to her 15th chromosome that had caused her body to be incomplete.

The incredible pressure to make our decision was unbearable; it is heartbreaking that since Jan. 1, Granite Staters in similar situations could not access the care they needed in our state. Instead of supporting these families and increasing access to care, extreme anti-abortion politicians put a law in place that shamed them and criminalizes their doctors. We would never have had the opportunity to wait for those results to make our decision under the abortion restrictions that took effect six months ago.

Before this year, because of the shame and stigma surrounding abortion, I told people with whom I felt safe that I had a medical termination. I now openly say I had an abortion, and it was the right decision for me and my family.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” That sentiment certainly held true in the New Hampshire State House this year. I am incredibly encouraged that lawmakers heard my story, and others, and changed their hearts and minds – and their votes.

But it is heartbreaking that we had to share our pain and our grief to make this change possible. Hearing politicians like Gov. Chris Sununu – who signed the original abortion ban into law – now claim to be “expanding” access to abortion care by adding this fatal fetal anomaly exception is maddening and disingenuous. I was shocked to hear him recently bragging about the abortion ban on a national podcast, saying, “I’ve done more on the pro-life issue, if you will, than anyone.”

Sununu’s abortion ban never should have been enacted – and it needs to be repealed entirely so we can allow patients and doctors to make the decisions that are best for themselves and their families.

After the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and give state politicians the power to determine all access to abortion care, we must all recommit to this movement and get involved to protect access to safe, legal abortion for all. My daughter Kayla did not have the body to support her to be here with us today, but her spirit helps me to speak up. Our stories have power. Telling our stories can change our lives, inspire others, and make a difference.

If you have an abortion story, I encourage you to share it if you are ready – with a friend, family member, or your elected official. This fall, I urge everyone to vote for candidates at every level of government who will act to protect and expand access to abortion care.

Our freedom is on the line. Together, we will make a difference.