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."

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

Dr. Duane Mitchell and Mark Hall

Two strangers sat down next to each other at Spurrier's Gridiron Grille in Gainesville, Florida, and had a great conversation that should have been filmed for all of America to see. It all started when Mark Hall of Ocala, Florida, commented on Dr. Duane Mitchell's choice of appetizer: Brussel's sprouts.

"That sounds awful. No, thank you," Hall joked.

Dr. Mitchel told Hall he was a researcher at the University of Florida studying human diseases which kicked off a contentious but friendly conversation about the coronavirus vaccines. Dr. Mitchell had got the vaccine, but Hall had been firmly against it for a year and a half.

"I've been against the shot since the shot was even born," the Ocala resident said in a University of Florida video. "Timelines weren't adding up for me. It seemed like the perfect storm." However, that didn't stop him from wanting to learn more and it made all of the difference.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!