A mother's heartbreaking story highlights the challenge of defining 'late-term abortion'

Part of the problem with debating abortion legislation is that there is no clear definition of what it even is. Some might say it's the termination of an unwanted pregnancy, but sometimes a pregnancy that ends in abortion was very much wanted. Some might say it's the killing of a baby in the womb, but plenty of abortions take place after a baby has already died in utero.

Merriam-Webster defines abortion as "the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus"—a definition that points to the following heartbreaking story and the reason why abortion is not as cut and dry an issue as many make it out to be.

Haylie Grammer shared her family's experience with "late-term abortion" in the death of her daughter, Embree, at 25 weeks, and it illustrates how abortion can look very, very different than what people imagine it to be.

Grammer wrote:


"I saw this article today about Senator Gary Peters and his abortion story. It reminded me why I am pro-choice and reminded me that people need to hear my story too. Some of you may have already heard my story, but I think it is a good reminder of how politics are used to control women's bodies and how everything isn't always what it seems on the surface.

4.5 years ago, I gave birth to my first born. Her name was Embree Eleanor Grammer. She was born via c-section on April 25, 2016. She weighed 4lbs 4oz. She was only 25 weeks gestation. She lived for approximately 20-30 minutes. She was born with a tumor that was roughly the size of a volleyball that was invading her body both externally and internally. It was sucking her blood supply, pushing her organs out of place, deforming her body, and overworking her heart. We found out about the tumor only 5 weeks prior. In that 5 weeks the tumor grew from about the size of a walnut to the volleyball. I grew along with it, from the tiny bump of a first time mom at 20 weeks to measuring the same as a pregnant woman who was roughly 36 weeks along. In 5 weeks.

That 5 weeks was the hardest 5 weeks of my life. We had sonograms twice weekly, traveled across the state to visit more specialists, and were told that essentially our sweet Embree would probably not make it. We had a choice to make. The state of Texas allows an abortion a time period after 20 weeks if the pregnancy is life threatening to the mother or if the fetus has "abnormalities." We qualified for this. I have always been pro-choice, but I have never been pro-abortion for myself. While I agree that women have the right to do what is best for them, I myself wasn't ever planning on getting an abortion. I also had hope. Hope that Embree would be healed. Hope that the tumor would stop growing. So we chose to push on with the pregnancy, hoping that Embree would have a chance. I was counting down to the age of viability, just hoping that if I could keep Embree cooking until then, maybe.... just maybe, modern medicine and prayers could keep her alive.

We were not only closely monitoring Embree, but doctors were closely monitoring me. Even though Embree was still alive, she was not in good shape. She was developing Hydrops and I was at a risk of developing mirror syndrome. This would be life threatening to me if it fully developed. On April 22 I went to my second sonogram of the week and my doctors were concerned with the swelling in my feet. I was told that I had a decision to make. Not only was I starting to develop the beginnings of mirror syndrome, but we were 2 weeks away from 27 weeks. This was important because at 27 weeks, I would no longer be able to deliver Embree in Texas via c-section. Why? Because according to the law, by choosing to deliver Embree this early, I would be having an abortion. And while at 24.5 weeks I was still in the grey area of Texas Abortion law where I could deliver her, at 27 weeks I would not be. Surprised this is considered an abortion? Many are. Stay with me.

We decided to schedule our c-section for that Monday. I would be 25 weeks. We made it past the age of viability, but it was becoming obvious that she would not make it. We met with NICU doctors and they reviewed our case. They decided that they would not be attempting any life saving attempts on Embree after she was delivered. This meant officially, we were choosing to have an abortion. We were giving birth to our child early, knowing full well that she would not survive. This is what 'late term abortion' looks like. Catch that political buzz word? I will explain more below.

As you can imagine, this was the worst and longest weekend of our life. We knew that in 2 days we would be meeting our daughter and letting her go. But it gets so much worse. Again, this is considered an abortion. A late term abortion. The State of Texas, like most states who have a large majority who claim to be 'pro-life,' has many restrictions in place to prevent abortions from happening. Here is the thing about abortion legislation.... it doesn't differentiate between what we were going through and what the 'pro-life' groups think they are preventing. The laws in Texas stated that in order for us to give birth to Embree and have a chance to hold her while her soul still resided in her body, we had to do the following: 1. Our doctor had to apply for permission to perform the c-section from the state. This had to be done 24 hours before the surgery. We had to go to the hospital on the Saturday before we were to give birth, in the midst of our mourning, to sign a paper requesting an abortion. Put yourself in that situation. Forever, in the records of the State of Texas, there is a piece of paper that says that I aborted my precious Embree. 2. On top of filing this paperwork for us, our doctor also had to give me a pamphlet published by the State of Texas about the consequences of abortion. By law, she was required to give me a booklet that told me that if I had the abortion I would suffer from depression and anxiety for the rest of my life, have an increased risk of breast cancer, and possible be infertile in the future. Think I'm kidding? Have a look: https://hhs.texas.gov/.../women.../womans-right-to-know.pdf

If you consider yourself "pro-life" you are probably thinking something like, "yes but your situation was different. This isn't what I'm fighting against." Or maybe you're thinking "but I don't consider this abortion." Great. But the actual definition of abortion is "the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus." So while YOU might not consider what we went through to be an "abortion," it was. I had an abortion. I had a late-term abortion.

Why am I bringing this up? Why am I telling you this? Because when lawmakers and people fight to end 'abortion,' they are talking about this too. When you hear about 'late term abortions' taking place, THIS is what is happening. It's not women who have carried babies to full term and then just deciding to have an abortion. It is women and families who are devastated that they are in a situation in which they have to decide whether to let a child suffer in the womb, or end their suffering. 'Pro-life' laws are designed to make this process difficult. They are designed to put obstacles in place. This process is already difficult enough. Even women who are deciding to have an abortion at 8 weeks. It's already a hard decision so why are we allowing people to torture them too. Every time people talk about saving the babies and being pro-life, I cringe on the inside. Not because I don't want to save babies, but because I want to save babies. Save babies from suffering that they are made to endure because some man who has no medical training has decided that he knows women's bodies better than doctors. I cringe because I know as a survivor of these terrible 'pro-life' laws that these laws are being used to trick women in America to vote against their own interest in hopes that they are saving the unborn. I cringe every time I hear people call those who vote in favor of Pro-Choice laws... 'murderers,' because they are saying I murdered my Embree.

I chose to deliver Embree on April 25, 2016 via c-section. I chose late-term abortion. I did so because it was the only way I could hold my baby girl while she was still alive. It was the only way I could encounter her soul until we are together again in heaven. This is why I am Pro-choice. Remember Embree and I when you vote."

If your first response to this story is, "But that's not abortion!" you're not just incorrect, you've also missed the point. Due to the circumstances and the laws of the state she was in, yes, this was legally considered an abortion. And if you think it shouldn't be, who do you think should make that decision? Who gets to define abortion so that it accounts for the millions of different individual circumstances that come into play? Most of us don't even want the government deciding which doctors we can go to—do we really want elected officials with no medical training making decisions about our specific, personal medical care?

Grammer isn't alone in sharing personal abortion stories that people don't think of as abortion. The families who desperately wanted a baby, who ended up having to make the rock-and-a-hard-place choice to abort because the alternative would have been a short, pain-filled life for their child. The mothers having to endure long, drawn out, potentially dangerous miscarriages and being forced to carry a dead baby inside of them because abortion restrictions gave them no other choice.

Some might say that these stories and experiences are not the norm, but they actually are when it comes to late-term abortion. Third trimester abortions are medical choices that aren't easy for any individual or family, and they are situations that medical professionals and patients need to make together, not the government. Pete Buttigieg said it beautifully: "The bottom line is, as horrible as that choice is, that woman, that family may seek spiritual guidance, they may seek medical guidance, but that decision is not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made."

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From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

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